SARASOTA, Fla. -- Florida is off the list.
Gov. Rick Scott convinced Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke to exempt Florida from any offshore drilling. Oil or gas drilling will not be allowed off the Gulf coast or in any water around Florida.
It's a big win for the environment, but it comes with political consequences.
“I’m 100 percent for keeping rigs off my coast,” said Fred Kagi, who lives on Longboat Key.
Kagi was taking a walk along Lido Beach in Sarasota. When he pointed to the water, it’s a view clear of any oil rigs.
“Look at the horizon," he said. "Everything you can see, money can’t buy. That’s nature, that’s what makes Florida and any place really special,” said Kagi.
The Florida native is happy to know this view will stay the same now that oil rigs will stay away from Florida’s coast.
“This is a good day for our state. We will continue to fight for our environment,” Scott told reporters on Wednesday during a visit in Bradenton.
He said he convinced the federal government to avoid offshore drilling off Florida’s coast by saying the state is unique from other coastal states.
“We’re different," Scott said. "We’re a state that’s very, very focused on the tourism industry. People are moving here because of our beaches. On top of that, we have a military presence that does training here.”
By exempting Florida, Scott has attracted criticism from other coastal states and from Sen. Bill Nelson (D).
Nelson, who may face a challenge for his Senate seat from Scott, calls the decision a “political stunt.”
Scott says this isn’t about politics.
“Senator Nelson ought to be happy," he said. "This a big day for our state, to get the Secretary of Interior not to do offshore drilling. He should be happy. It’s not about politics, it’s about policy,”
The decision will help avoid images like those after the 2010 BP Deep Water Horizons explosion, which spilled 215 million gallons of crude oil in the Gulf.
Michael Crosby, president and CEO of Mote Marine Laboratory, says the Tampa Bay area was very lucky during the Horizons spill.
“We dodged an enormous bullet in the BP Deepwater Horizons explosion. If the current pattern had been normal that oil spill would have spread much further down the Southern coast, even into the coral reef track of the keys,” said Crosby.
Crosby says the feds and the governor made the right choice.
“We cannot afford the chance of losing what we hold so precious. Whether it’s the aesthetic aspect, the cultural linkage to marine environment or whether it’s the economy. We can’t take that risk.”
Some states like California say they too are unique and should be exempt. Some states are threatening legal action to protect its coastlines.
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