Aug. 17–So, the specter of oil exploration off Florida’s coastline rises again from a seven month slumber.
You remember the serendipitous meeting between Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Gov. Rick Scott, back in January? That’s when Zinke announced coastal drilling was off the table in federal waters off Florida.
The Interior Department had just completed an eight-month drilling plan, after President Trump ordered the expansion of it.
Zinke made a quick stopover in Florida to shake the governor’s hand and deliver the news that Florida would be spared, apparently because Scott was “straightforward and easy to work with.”
Hmmm. There is another theory.
President Trump and the GOP political machine were anticipating a potential resurgence of Congressional Democrats in this year’s mid-term elections. No swing state is more important than Florida. And Florida’s Governor was shouldering a miserable environmental legacy. The no-drill deal was seen as a political chit for Scott. He was almost certain to take a run at Sen. Bill Nelson — a staunch opponent of opening our coastlines to the threat of drilling. This isn’t a partisan shot. Nelson’s done his share of grandstanding. It’s how it happened.
The Sun-Sentinel wrote in an editorial Jan. 16 — just after what The Record described as the “immaculate exception” — “If Zinke can take Florida ‘off the table’ in January 2018, he could put Florida back on the table in January 2019, after the election.”
The Sun-Sentinel also noted that Walter Shaub, who led the U.S. Office of Government Ethics during President Obama’s last term, and for six months of the Trump presidency, had his own concerns that Zinke was: “Exempting the state that is home to the festering cankerous conflict of interest that the administration calls the ‘Winter White House’ (Mar-a-Lago in Palm Beach), and none of the other affected areas.” That’s may be a stretch.
The new coalition pushing offshore exploration, “Explore Offshore,” fired its opening rounds in Tallahassee this week. A spokesman for the group told reporters the coalition is aimed at “giving a voice to ‘unheard’ supporters who view domestic energy production as a job creator and a national security issue,”according to The News Service of Florida. That spokesman was David Mica — also executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council.
The mantra of the group was explained by co-chair of the group, Jeff Kottkamp. “We are not talking today, by the way, about ‘drill, baby drill.’ We’re talking about ‘explore, baby, explore.’ … Let’s find out what resources we have off the coast of Florida.” Kottkamp is a former member of Florida’sHouse of Representatives and Lt. Gov. under former Gov. Charlie Crist.
Another co-chair of Explore is Jim Nicholson, a former secretary of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. He told those in attendance many concerns about offshore drilling are misplaced. The New Service of Florida quoted Nicholson: “There is little to no chance of this exploration being visible from coastal lands, and the miracle (emphasis ours) of new science and technology has made the chances of a disastrous accident like that of the BP Deepwater Horizon in 2010 nearly impossible.”
Will miracles never cease?
The notion that we’re exploring and not drilling is Pollyanna. We explore to find available oil and natural gas deposits — in order to do exactly what? The truth about the relationship between exploring and drilling is many seismic companies won’t conduct surveys without the prior financial backing and direction of oil and gas company customers.
Neither does the new Explore crew mention the seismic guns central to these explorations — and concerns of their crippling effects on marine life.
None of this is surprising, except the timing. We can’t figure it out. Why not wait until either Scott or Nelson is in or out after November. Certainly the strategy would be different … depending.
Why now? It is no accident. That makes the immaculate exception something to closely watch.
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