WASHINGTON – Blasting the Trump administration's oil drilling reversal as a "shameless political stunt," Sen. Bill Nelson on Wednesday argued Florida's coast could still be targeted and said he's filing legislation for a permanent ban.
The Democrat said he fears yesterday's announcement by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, delivered after a meeting with Gov. Rick Scott in Tallahassee, could "discourage Floridians from commenting on the proposal that was published just this Monday, the one that opened up Florida's entire coastline to drilling."
"Floridians should beware and they should make their objections known because if we don't, then the administration will try to say they never heard objections," Nelson said from the Senate floor.
Nelson, expected to face a re-election challenge this year from Scott, said he sent Zinke a letter Wednesday raising numerous questions, including just what exactly is off the table.
Both coasts? Seismic testing?
"It's such a political stunt," Nelson fumed.
Trying not to be outdone by Scott, Nelson noted how he's fought drilling since the 1980s, when the east coast was targeted. He and Sen. Mel Martinez fashioned a deal to ban drilling in the eastern Gulf until 2022. Nelson has been pushing to extend that until 2027.
As Nelson railed against the move, Scott's allies said he was acting in poor form.
"Instead of celebrating the announcement as a win for Florida, Sen. Bill Nelson has made this about politics," said Katie Martin, NRSC communications director. "This move from the administration is what Floridians want, but for some reason Sen. Nelson appears he'd be happier if the decision was reversed."