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Florida politicians sound off on oil drilling after report suggests new plan

Democrats and Republicans have been united in their desire to extend a moratorium on drilling off of the state’s west coast.

Top Florida officials affirmed their stance against oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday after a news report from Washington described how the Trump administration could bring the industry closer to the state.

The story from Politico relied on four unnamed sources and said the U.S. Department of the Interior might release a plan after this year’s election that would suggest drilling off Florida. A moratorium banning drilling in the eastern gulf is set to expire in 2022.

The offices of Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, who have pushed legislation that would advance the ban another 10 years, both said Wednesday they will continue to work on keeping drilling away from Florida.

Scott said he wants “to make sure Florida’s natural resources are preserved so the state can remain a top destination.”

Rep. Charlie Crist, a Republican turned Democrat who was governor when the Deepwater Horizon rig blew up near Louisiana, sending tar balls onto Panhandle beaches, tweeted: “We will not let it happen again!”

Democrats and Republicans in Florida have found harmony in their desire to extend the moratorium — whether out of environmental concerns about fossil fuel emissions or a desire to protect the state’s white sands and tourism industry.

A spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, in response to a question from the Tampa Bay Times, said Wednesday he “has made clear his opposition to drilling off the coast of Florida.”

Two years ago, then-Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke famously appeared at a Florida airport with Scott, DeSantis’ predecessor, and said “we are not drilling off the coast of Florida.”

That was not an official change or policy measure.

A spokesman for the Department of Interior said Wednesday the agency is not “planning to issue the report right after the election.”

He pointed to a 2019 Wall Street Journal story that said the administration’s plans to expand drilling were delayed by a legal ruling and said Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt’s position has not changed since then.