U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) sent a letter today to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke demanding specific details on any new five-year offshore drilling plan the agency may be considering.
The move comes less than 24 hours after Zinke announced in an airport in Tallahassee that he was taking Florida “off the table” as the agency looks to open up additional areas to offshore oil drilling.
Nelson, who immediately called the announcement a “political stunt,” says the public has a right to know exactly what Interior is now proposing before they should be expected to comment on it.
“The public has a right to know exactly what Interior’s plan is,” Nelson wrote to Zinke, “and it is unreasonable to expect Floridians to provide input on a plan that may or may not be the plan that your agency is actually considering.”
Nelson announced the letter in a speech he gave on the Senate floor Wednesday. “While many in Florida have seen right through this shameless political stunt,” Nelson said, “it has opened up a long list of other questions that I have now asked Secretary Zinke to answer in a letter that I have sent today.”
Nelson went on to say that Zinke should extend the public comment period to give Floridians adequate time to voice their opinion on any new plan.
“For every day that goes by without answers to these essential questions, the secretary needs to add that much more time to the public comment period,” Nelson said. “I fear this announcement of Secretary Zinke’s is going to discourage Floridians from commenting on the proposal that was published just this Monday – the one that opened up Florida’s entire coastline to drilling – because our Floridians have been given false assurances that we all are in the clear.”
In that same speech, Nelson also announced that he filed new legislation Wednesday to permanently ban drilling off of Florida’s coast.
“I have filed bills to expand the moratorium on the Gulf Coast, I have sponsored other legislation to protect Florida, and today I am filing another bill that would be a permanent ban of drilling off of Florida’s coast,” Nelson announced.