ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. -- The U.S. Interior Department could open up the Florida coastline to offshore oil and gas drilling, according to reports.
The plan would greatly expand federal areas previously off-limits, including the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific coasts, to allow drilling activity, Reuters reports.
The announcement is a five-year offshore drilling plan that follows through on a pledge made by President Donald Trump to open up federal areas for interested oil and gas companies. Politico reports the plan is expected to be formally announced Thursday, Jan. 4.
There already is bipartisan backlash to the idea, with some people fearing disasters like the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 and what could happen to local economies.
From Republican and Florida Gov. Rick Scott:
"Based on media reports, it is likely that the Department of the Interior will consider Florida as a potential state for offshore oil drilling – which is something I oppose in Florida," Scott said in a statement, in part. "I have already asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration.
"My top priority is to ensure that Florida's natural resources are protected, which is why I proposed $1.7 billion for the environment in this year's budget."
Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson criticized the plan from the Senate floor Wednesday, according to Florida Politics:
"The BP spill devastated my state's economy and 11 people lost their lives," Nelson said. “That's why I plan to subject this misguided rule to the Congressional Review Act."
"Almost five million barrels of oil spilled as a result of a defective device called a blowout preventer," Nelson said. "Now, what the Interior Department and this administration is trying to do is undo the updated standards for shear rams and blowout preventers and is trying to get rid of a required third party to certify the safety mechanisms."
Before former President Barack Obama left office, he banned new activity across millions of acres of waters. The Trump administration's proposal would replace it.
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