More greening of Scott, just as the “toilet to tap” shenanigan was planned for Scott’s benefit.
Go to this link to see the original article in the Sun Sentinel.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Three months ago, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appeared with Gov. Rick Scott in Tallahassee and declared Florida “off the table” for oil drilling near the state’s coastline. We wrote then that Floridians should be “skeptical” of the announcement.
We were right.
Less than two weeks later, an Interior Department official told Congress that the exemption for Florida was not formal. President Trump has proposed opening almost the entire American coastline to drilling, angering a bipartisan group of coastal state governors. The official said Zinke’s statement in Tallahassee “stands on its own” but added that the department has not decided “what’s in on or out” of the plan.
Then last month, Zinke told a California congresswoman who wanted a drilling exemption for her state that Florida “did not get an exemption.” Sen. Bill Nelson responded that the Trump administration should “terminate the draft proposal; terminate it entirely … The whole process has been fraught with confusion, because it was a political stunt.”
Nelson is right.
Last week, Politico Florida reported that the supposedly spontaneous Jan. 9 event featuring Zinke and Scott was anything but. Their staffs had planned it for days and perhaps months, making it seem as if Zinke made his decision after just a 20-minute meeting with the governor at Tallahassee International Airport.
The choreography was designed to help Scott look good for a challenge to Nelson this year, which Scott announced Monday. Oil drilling has been one of Nelson’s signature issues during his 18 years in the Senate.
“Whatever Rick needs,” a Republican source told Politico in January, the Trump administration “will do.” The result will be “a big win, and it won’t be Bill Nelson bringing it home.”
Indeed, Zinke’s decision seemed dubious at the time. He appeared with Scott five days after the Trump administration announced its drilling plan. For Florida, the plan allowed drilling off the Atlantic coast for the first time and closer than 125 miles from the Gulf of Mexico coastline. The 125-mile limit remains in place until 2022.
The proposal drew criticism from Florida lawmakers of both parties. Opposition to drilling long has been a bipartisan issue. In addition, the current moratorium in the Gulf protects a region the Defense Department uses for sensitive testing.
Suddenly, however, Zinke declared Florida “unique.” He gave all the credit to Scott. “You have a tremendous governor. He says what he means. Florida is well-served.”
Reporter Matt Dixon wrote that Politico reviewed 1,200 documents relating to the issue of drilling and to the Jan. 9 meeting. He reported that an Interior Department staff member, Rusty Roddy, emailed Scott’s office four days before the meeting, saying, “Look forward to seeing you guys Monday.” He told Politico that the Jan. 9 event at the airport was “planned.”
Indeed, Scott’s office and the Interior Department communicated two dozen times between the announcement of the drilling plan and the Scott-Zinke stagecraft in Tallahassee. Scott’s office did not include the meeting on his daily schedule, enhancing the perception that it was spontaneous.
A Scott spokesman did not directly address Politico’s reporting. He said the governor “was glad to have the opportunity to quickly meet with Secretary Zinke and get commitment from him in that meeting to take Florida off the table for future offshore drilling.”
Yet Politico’s reporting only reinforces the perception that this “commitment” won’t last past the November election. Indeed, Trump promises last no longer than teenage crushes. He promised to treat the Dreamers “with love” and then abandoned them. He promised a gun-control bill and then backed down.
Given the turnover in the Trump administration, it’s also not certain that Zinke even would be on the job past November. And Scott would have Floridians believe that he has become a convert on offshore drilling.
Twice as a candidate in 2010 Scott favored expanded drilling, though he couched it after the BP oil spill. Last year, Trump issued his executive order to expand drilling as part of as “America-First Offshore Energy Strategy.” Scott expressed no opposition.
On offshore drilling, only Nelson has earned Floridians’ trust. Nelson helped to negotiate the 2006 deal that extended the moratorium in the Gulf to 2022. With Marco Rubio, Nelson has sponsored legislation that would continue the ban until 2027. Because Zinke keeps hedging on that “off the table” pledge, Nelson has blocked confirmation of three Interior Department nominees until Zinke presents a new plan that omits Florida. Zinke said Friday that the whole Atlantic coast might be out because of weak interest in potential leases.
Better yet, Trump should abandon the whole plan. Our worry, though, are the Florida beaches that define this state and support the tourism industry. If you think that President Trump and Gov. Scott are playing election-year politics with drilling, you’re right.
Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O’Hara, Elana Simms, Andy Reid and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson.