Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Trump’s reversal on drilling a victory for Florida

The Trump administrationís abrupt reversal on its foolhardy plan to allow more oil drilling off Floridaís coastlines is a win for the Sunshine State, regardless of whether it is based more on politics than environmental concerns. Drilling poses a unique threat to the stateís environment and economy and to the countryís military readiness, and it should not have even been considered. Gov. Rick Scott deserves credit for persuading the administration to quickly change its mind, and Sen. Bill Nelson and other longtime drilling opponents should keep pushing to extend the congressional ban on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke made the announcement during a hastily arranged meeting on Tuesday with Scott at the Tallahassee airport. The two emerged after 20 minutes to tell reporters who were notified an hour before that Florida would be scrapped from the Interior Departmentís plan to issue new offshore drilling leases.

The administrationís plan, released last week after months of review, called for 47 lease sales in 25 of the 26 offshore planning areas by 2024, including 12 lease sales in the Gulf of Mexico. Ten of those sales in the gulf would be in areas not currently off-limits. A congressional agreement from 2006 bars drilling within 125 miles of the Florida Panhandle and 235 miles of Tampa Bay. But that agreement expires in 2022, after which Trump proposed two lease sales in the eastern and central gulf. The plan also called for three lease sales in the south Atlantic area, which extends to Florida, and one lease sale in the Florida Straits.

Zinke attributed the change of mind to coastal damage from Hurricane Irma in September and ongoing pollution in Lake Okeechobee, which have little if anything to do with a decision on drilling, especially given the lengthy environmental analysis the Interior Department included as part of its 380-page proposal. Itís more plausible the administration was trying to aid one of the presidentís stronger supporters by giving Scott some political cover as he entertains challenging Nelson this year. Scott and other elected leaders in both parties joined Nelson ó a longtime, vocal opponent of offshore drilling ó in objecting to the presidentís plan.

This is politics, of course, but it doesnít detract from the victory of removing this threat from the stateís coastal areas. Thatís why other coastal governors have been howling in reaction to the administrationís decision to protect Florida. Aside from the damage to the economy and the environment an oil spill would bring, drilling platforms and operations also pose a threat to military training activities off the Florida coast. The Pentagon, in a letter to Congress last year, said it "cannot overstate the vital importance of maintaining" the moratorium in the eastern gulf.

Scott, Nelson and others deserve praise for voicing their opposition. But offshore drilling is too at odds with the interests of this state to leave protections up to the political winds of the moment. While numerous Atlantic states, including Massachusetts and New Jersey, expressed their opposition to drilling off their coasts, Florida "did not state" its position on the plan when asked for feedback, according to the Interior Departmentís proposal. Thatís all the more reason that this announcement needs to be reinforced by Congress. Nelson previously filed legislation to extend the existing ban in the eastern gulf an additional five years, until 2027. He filed new legislation Wednesday to make that ban permanent, and Congress should also fashion a ban on the Atlantic coast of Florida and in the Florida Straits.

The administrationís decision is a victory for Florida that state leaders need to build on through congressional action. In an era of bitter partisanship, state leaders from both political parties aptly channeled the publicís opposition to drilling and produced a solid win. The Trump administration made clear it is doing this for Scott, which is fine. But Nelsonís decadeslong defense of the Florida coasts also deserves praise, and there should be continued vigilance by everyone.

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Wednesday’s letters: How home rule can help fight Red Tide

Red Tide on march | Sept. 18How home rule can help fight Red TideAt the end of 2005, as Red Tide ravaged the beaches and intracoastal waterways of Southwest Florida, volunteers from the Suncoast Sierra Club formed a coastal task force to begin de...
Published: 09/18/18
Cartoons for Wednesday, Sept. 19

Cartoons for Wednesday, Sept. 19

Editorial cartoons from Times wires
Published: 09/18/18
Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

Editorial: FDA acts to keep e-cigarettes from kids

The federal Food and Drug Administration is bringing important scrutiny to the increasing use of e-cigarettes, requiring companies that make and sell them to show they are keeping their products away from minors. Vaping is the new front in the nation...
Published: 09/18/18

Tuesday’s letters: Honor Flight restored my faith in America

Dogs are the best | Letter, Sept. 15Honor Flight restored my faith in AmericaJust as I was about to give up on our country due to divisiveness and and the divisions among its people and politicians, my pride was restored. As a member of the recen...
Published: 09/17/18
Updated: 09/18/18

Editorial cartoons for Sept. 18

From Times wires
Published: 09/17/18

Column: We’re measuring the economy all wrong

Ten years after the collapse of Lehman Bros., the official economic statistics — the ones that fill news stories, television shows and presidential tweets — say that the U.S. economy is fully recovered.The unemployment rate is lower tha...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

Editorial: Senate should delay vote on Kavanaugh

The Senate and the nation needs to hear more about the sexual assault allegation against U.S. Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. Setting aside Kavanaugh's judicial record, his political past and the hyper-partisan divide over his nomination, a no...
Published: 09/17/18
Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

Editorial: Tampa council has another chance to show it takes Stovall House changes seriously

The Tampa City Council has yet to hear a compelling reason to allow a private social club in a residential neighborhood off Bayshore Boulevard, and a final meeting on the matter scheduled for Thursday offers the council a chance to show the diligence...
Published: 09/14/18
Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Editorial: Focus on Hurricane Florence, not defending poor response in Puerto Rico

Hurricane Florence began lashing down on the Carolinas Thursday and was expected to make landfall early Friday, washing over dunes, downing trees and power lines and putting some 10 million people in the path of a potentially catastrophic storm. Flor...
Published: 09/13/18
Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Editorial: Scott sends positive signal on Supreme Court appointments

Gov. Rick Scott has headed down a dangerous path by announcing he has started the process to fill three upcoming vacancies on the Florida Supreme Court as he heads out the door. But to his credit, the governor indicated his "expectationíí is that he ...
Published: 09/12/18
Updated: 09/14/18