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Nelson challenges Scott to support anti-drilling legislation

Scott this week faulted Congress for failing to act.

WASHINGTON – Days after Gov. Rick Scott faulted Congress for failing to take up a proposal to permanently bar oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico., Sen. Bill Nelson is asking whether Scott at least supports extending a moratorium.

"If Rick Scott really wanted to protect Florida's coasts, beaches and the military, he would support legislation I've introduced to extend the moratorium on drilling off our beaches," the Democratic senator said in a campaign statement.

Scott's tweet implies he supports legislation.

But does he?

"Since the governor is the person that actually worked to get Florida removed from consideration for drilling off of our state's coast, he of course supports the 125 mile barrier," spokesman Ryan Patmintra said.

Pressed whether that means Scott supports legislation for a permanent ban or to extend the moratorium, currently set to expire in 2022, another five years, he said:

“He fought to get Florida completely removed from consideration for offshore drilling, so I think his position on this issue is clear. What he does not support is opportunist, ineffective career politicians who wait until an election year to finally try and tackle this issue and when they fail, use it as a political issue.”

In January, Scott would not say if he supports Nelson's permanent ban.

If it's not clear, the oil issue will play a lead role in the Senate campaign. Scott in January secured a controversial promise from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to exclude Florida from the Trump administration's plan to expand offshore drilling.

It was a big political win but has come under attack from Nelson and other Democrats, who contend Florida is still at risk.

Read more:

Florida remains off table for Trump oil drilling plan, Zinke says

Bill Nelson's anti-drilling credentials come under scrutiny