The Trump administration's announcement that it would re-evaluate its plans for new offshore drilling is good news for Florida. The move should produce a strategy that better balances the nation's energy and environmental interests and enables the administration to honor earlier assurances that Florida would be "off the table."
The administration on Thursday announced a review of the five-year plan unveiled last year that would open up 90 percent of the outer continental shelf to drilling, including new areas off the Atlantic coast of Florida and in the Gulf of Mexico. Within days, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and then-Gov. Rick Scott announced that Florida would be exempt. Whatever the motivation, the administration failed to codify the exemption before Zinke was forced from office late last year. Other coastal states decried what they called a politically arbitrary process that bestowed special treatment on Florida.
The Interior Department now says it will "carefully consider" comments from affected states before making a final decision. That gives Florida time to amplify bipartisan opposition to the plan. Unlike other coastal states, Florida under Scott did not oppose the Trump plan when first solicited for input.
The Florida delegation should go further by urging Congress to make permanent a temporary ban until 2022 on drilling within 235 miles of Tampa Bay and 125 miles from the Panhandle. Better to count on the law, not promises, to keep drilling rigs from littering the Florida coast.