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Trump administration exempts Florida from plan to expand offshore drilling

The Trump administration will prohibit drilling for oil off the coast of Florida, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said. Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) was one of the governors who opposed the plan, and now some see the move as an effort to aid Scott’s likely Senate campaign. (2016 file photo/Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

President Donald Trump’s administration will prohibit drilling for oil off the coast of Florida, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Tuesday.

What happened?

The Trump administration announced plans last week to expand offshore drilling and proposed opening nearly all offshore waters in the U.S. for oil and gas drilling. Many coastal state governors expressed opposition to the plan, voicing concerns about protecting natural resources.

One of the governors who said he opposed the plan was Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R). According to the Tampa Bay Times, after a “hastily-arranged” 20-minute meeting at the Tallahassee, Florida, airport Tuesday, Zinke and Scott told reporters that Florida would be exempt from the proposal.

"As a result of our interest in making sure that there's no drilling here, Florida will be taken off the table," Scott told reporters.

Why Florida?

According to The Hill, the governors of “nearly all states along the Pacific and Atlantic coasts” have also requested that their states be exempted from Zinke’s plan, but thus far, Florida is the only state that Zinke has exempted.

Scott is expected to launch a campaign for Senate this year. He would go up against incumbent Florida Sen. Bill Nelson (D), a longtime opponent of offshore drilling.

Some characterized the move as an effort by the Trump administration to aid Scott’s likely campaign. In a statement Tuesday provided to the Tampa Bay Times, Nelson called the move a "political stunt":

I have spent my entire life fighting to keep oil rigs away from our coasts. But now, suddenly, Secretary Zinke announces plans to drill off Florida's coast and four days later agrees to "take Florida off the table?" I don't believe it. This is a political stunt orchestrated by the Trump administration to help Rick Scott, who has wanted to drill off Florida's coast his entire career. We shouldn't be playing politics with the future of Florida.

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) suggested in a tweet that Virginia’s similar request for exemption was ignored due to its Democratic governor and incoming governor.

Zinke tweeted that Trump urged him to consider “the local and state voice” in environmental policy.

One last thing…
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