Report: Trump Will Wait to Push Drilling in Florida Waters Until After November Election

Long Beach in Panama City Beach, Florida, USA is known as the Emerald Coast in the Panhandle. Taken in January 2018. Photo and Caption: Darlene Stanley/

The Trump administration is preparing to drill off Florida’s coast, but says it will wait until after the November election to avoid any backlash from Florida state leaders. This is because Florida is an important state for both candidates: President Trump himself and former Vice President Joe Biden. The plan to drill also includes an expansion of offshore drilling in California.

Since 1985, billions of barrels of oil have been off-limits since the federal government withdrew leases it had sold. If approved, the drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico would fulfill a long-sought goal of energy companies. But Floridians for their part fear a crippling economy if any oil drilling happens off their shores.Both Republican and Democratic governors of coastal states have voiced their opposition to drilling off Florida’s coast for oil due to the devastation it would cause the environment and tourism industries. Former Trump Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had initially issued a draft plan to open the eastern Gulf once the current federal drilling moratorium ends in 2022 but then walked that back in 2018, when he promised Florida’s then-governor, Republican Rick Scott (now a U.S. Senator), that the state’s coasts would remain off-limits.

The offshore drilling plan has been developed by Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, Deputy Secretary Kate MacGregor and acting Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management Casey Hammond, according to sources familiar with the proposal said. The sources claimed the timing could still change before its release. 

Florida lawmakers in recent weeks have taken their concerns directly to Trump, who last year declared himself an official state resident. They have also spoken to Senate leadership on possibly including Senator Marco Rubio and Scott’s bill in upcoming legislation, according to one Senate aide who requested anonymity to discuss the negotiations.

“I won’t stop fighting to make sure offshore drilling is off the table for Florida. I’m proposing several amendments to extend the moratorium on oil drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast and protect our environment,” Senator Scott said on Wednesday, June 10 in a released statement. “This fight isn’t over, and I will keep working with Senator Rubio and the entire Florida delegation to make sure Florida’s natural resources are preserved so the state can remain a top destination for families, visitors and businesses.”

The American political journalism company POLITICO obtained documents through a Freedom of Information Act request showing the Trump administration also considered reopening federal waters off California to new drilling. The waters off California’s southern coast contain 5.3 billion barrels of recoverable oil, according to a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) estimate.

Exxon and other companies still produce oil in the area. But experts in the industry say that drilling in California would be almost impossible due to many opponents of new drilling for oil and gas there.  “Nobody wants to do business in California. My God, that would be torturous,” one industry person said. “I would see this as something to antagonize Democrats and to create leverage to open up other acres.”