1. News
  2. /
  3. Florida Politics
  4. /
  5. The Buzz

House passes bill to permanently ban offshore drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast

Only one of Florida’s 27 House members voted against the bill: Republican Rep. Ted Yoho.
From left, Lance Lovell, of Louisiana, Carlos Gordon, of Florida and Rick Garcia, of Mississippi, do general maintenance on the HOS Silverstar at Hornbeck Offshore Services, Friday Dec. 3, 2010, at Port Fourchon in Golden Meadow, La. On Wednesday, the U.S. House voted to ban offshore drilling in the gulf. [KERRY MALONEY | ASSOCIATED PRESS]
Published Sep. 12

The House of Representatives passed a bill to permanently ban offshore drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast on Wednesday, a move Florida lawmakers said would help the state’s tourism industry and military installations.

The bill, Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act, passed with a vote of 248-180, with 22 Republicans joining 226 Democrats in favor. Five Democrats and one independent, along with 174 Republicans, voted against the bill. Only one of Florida’s 27 House members voted against the bill, Republican Rep. Ted Yoho, R-Gainesville.

Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Naples, Florida’s most pro-environment Republican member of Congress, sponsored the legislation and 12 other Florida lawmakers from both parties signed on.

“I think it’s an important first step,” Rooney said in an interview with the Miami Herald. “We’re all going to have to all work together to convince President Trump that this is so important for Florida, that he’s got to support us on this.”

Rooney’s bill now heads to the U.S. Senate, where Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio has a bill that would also ban offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, but only through 2027. Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott signed onto Rubio’s bill Tuesday.

A congressional source said the White House issued a veto threat on Rooney’s bill because the Trump administration is uncomfortable with a permanent ban on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, though the White House is open to Rubio’s plan.

Rooney said a permanent ban would help stabilize the state’s fishing and tourism industries. He noted that business on Florida’s west coast suffered after the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, even though the environmental effects were mainly limited to the Florida Panhandle hundreds of miles away.

“We still suffered a lot of economic damage,” Rooney said. “Fishermen, restaurants and hotels had to close. In the tourism industry, perceptions become the reality.”

The boundary for the proposed offshore drilling ban would match the current moratorium map that expires in 2022. Offshore drilling is permitted in central and western portions of the Gulf of Mexico off the Texas and Louisiana coasts, and lawmakers in those states generally oppose restrictions on drilling.

Under the current moratorium, offshore drilling on Florida’s Gulf Coast is not permitted within 125 miles of the coast. Drilling is also not permitted farther offshore in portions of the eastern Gulf so the military can use that section of the open sea for testing purposes.

Republicans outside Florida argued that the bill restricts opportunities for energy growth.

“This legislation overly restricts offshore exploration and development which would eliminate opportunities to create jobs, grow the economy and increase U.S. energy development to lower prices for consumers,” Rep. Jeff Duncan, R-S.C., said on the House floor.

But Rooney noted that Florida Republicans have a long history of opposing offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

“[Former Sens.] Mel Martinez, Connie Mack and [former Gov.] Jeb [Bush] got this accomplished under George W. [Bush] and now we’re going to need to have our senators work on it,” Rooney said. “Sixty-nine percent of Floridians voted to ban offshore drilling. Even where I’m from, which is a very conservative area, they want this offshore drilling ban even though they follow Trump significantly.”

Rooney noted that the eastern Gulf of Mexico is also an important military testing site, and the ban on drilling will makes bases on the Florida Panhandle an important research and development resource.

“A study the military did last year showed that the most intense testing going forward is just east of that line,” Rooney said. “There’s high-tech radio frequency work and some other kinds of classified work going on.”

He also said new offshore drilling in Florida is less important now that the Energy Department announced that the U.S. is set to become a net exporter of energy in 2020. That will include oil and gas exporting.

Miami Democratic Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, who represents the Florida Keys, said that a ban on offshore drilling will protect Florida’s coral reefs and marine life.

“The Florida reef is the third-largest reef in the world and the only living coal reef in the continental United States,” Mucarsel-Powell said in a floor speech on Tuesday. “Florida’s unique ecosystem is too delicate to put at risk to the hazards of the drilling process. Offshore drilling puts our tourism industry at risk. It is time to put the health and well-being of our community over the greed of corporate polluters.”

The House of Representatives also passed a bill Wednesday that prohibits the Department of Interior from expanding offshore drilling into the Atlantic Outer Continental Shelf planning area, which includes the south Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s East Coast and the Straits of Florida to the south, along with the U.S. Pacific coast. Rooney was the only Republican signed on to South Carolina Democratic Rep. Joe Cunningham’s bill, which passed 238-189. Rooney was the bill’s only Republican co-sponsor in the House, meaning it likely has an uphill path in the U.S. Senate.

Rooney said a permanent offshore drilling ban would clear up confusion for Floridians after former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced in a 2018 Tallahassee press conference that offshore drilling in Florida was “off the table.” Zinke’s surprise announcement, which was coordinated with then-Gov. Scott four months before he announced a bid for U.S. Senate, set off criticism that political considerations were behind the Florida exemption, as President Trump announced plans to expand offshore drilling in other parts of the country.

“This takes the issue off the table and we don’t have to worry about Zinke’s tweets or no tweets,” Rooney said. “It’ll be over. It’ll be nice and clean and tidy.”


  1. State Rep. Chris Sprowls, 35, addresses the Florida House of Representatives, Tuesday, Sept. 17, 2019, in Tallahassee, Fla., after the Republican was elected to lead the 120-member chamber. (AP Photo/Bobby Caina Calvan) BOBBY CAINA CALVAN  |  AP
    The Pinellas Republican did not shy away from the wedge issues of the day, wading into 2020 presidential politics, abortion and climate change.
  2. The Florida Department of Health in Hillsborough County identified a positive case of hepatitis A in a food service worker at Hamburger Mary's in Ybor City on Oct. 22, 2018. [JOSH FIALLO | Times] JOSH FIALLO | TIMES  |  JOSH FIALLO | Times
    Slightly more than 200,000 people have been vaccinated this year — a huge jump from the 49,324 people vaccinated in all of 2018.
  3. This satellite image shows Hurricane Michael on Oct. 9, 2018, as it enters the Gulf of Mexico. It made landfall near Mexico Beach in the Panhandle as a Category 5 storm. [Photo courtesy of NOAA] NOAA
    Nearly a year after the storm, 18,000 claims are still open.
  4. The Florida House Education Committee focuses on early education in its first meeting of the 2020 session. The Florida Channel
    Gov. Ron DeSantis also had set a priority of getting more youngsters ready for kindergarten.
  5. Energy-efficient LED light bulbs. (Times | 2008) St. Petersburg Times
    Trump’s administration recently scrapped a rule that would have phased out incandescent light bulbs.
  6. President Donald Trump speaks at the 2019 House Republican Conference Member Retreat Dinner in Baltimore on Sept. 12. JOSE LUIS MAGANA  |  AP
    The country is moving in that direction, though.
  7. She’s the fifth candidate to announce her campaign for the GOP primary.
  8. Rep. Chris Sprowls, R- Palm Harbor.  [SCOTT KEELER  |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  Tampa Bay Times
    At 2 p.m. today, the Republicans of the Florida House are scheduled to elect the Palm Harbor state representative to serve as speaker for the 2021 - 2022 term.
  9. Students and community activists marched in Tampa last year after the Feb. 14, 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland. The attack killed 17 people and gave rise to Florida’s school guardian law, which this year was changed to allow classroom teachers to be armed. Gov. Ron DeSantis signed the measure into law. [MONICA HERNDON   |   Times]
    "This is the dumb, backwards stuff that we do here,” one Florida lawmaker said.
  10. Florida Senator Tom Lee, R- Thonotosassa. [SCOTT KEELER   |   Times] SCOTT KEELER  |  TAMPA BAY TIMES
    Tom Lee chairs the Florida Senate’s Infrastructure and Security Committee, which has been tasked by the Senate president with coming up with a response to the most recent spate of mass shootings.