Trump admin intends to roll back ban on offshore drilling

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By Sara Ganim CNN

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- The Trump administration Thursday announced plans to roll back a ban on new offshore drilling off the coasts of Florida and California and is considering more than 40 sites for leasing of natural gas and oil production.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said that 47 proposed leasing areas could increase federal revenue by $15 billion.

"It's better to produce energy here and never be held hostage by foreign enemy needs," Zinke said, adding it's a "clear difference between energy weakness and energy dominance."

The proposal would increase drilling sites off the coasts of Alaska and in the Gulf of Mexico. It would reinstate leasing sites in Pacific and Atlantic waters.

But the announcement was met with immediate concern from environmental groups, and from Republican Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who released a statement in the middle of Zinke's announcement Thursday afternoon, asking to have waters off of Florida's coastline removed from consideration.

“Based on media reports, it is likely that the Department of the Interior will consider Florida as a potential state for offshore oil drilling – which is something I oppose in Florida. I have already asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration. My top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected, which is why I proposed $1.7 billion for the environment in this year’s budget.” - Gov. Scott

Zinke, who said he anticipated strong pushback, said the five-year-proposal would not move forward without state, community and congressional feedback, but refused to say that states would have the power to veto drilling off their own shores.

"Certainly states and local communities have a voice and Scott's been a great governor," Zinke said. "This is what's available. We're going to listen to the voices of all the stakeholders. ... This is going to be a dialogue of states and Interior and all the stakeholders."

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Florida, threatened to block the roll-back. 

"Almost five million barrels of oil spilled as a result of a defective device called a blowout preventer," Nelson said on the Senate floor. "Now, what the Interior Department and this administration is trying to do is undo the updated standards for shear rams and blowout preventers and is trying to get rid of a required third party to certify the safety mechanisms."

Nelson cited the BP oil spill in 2010. 

“The BP spill devastated my state's economy and 11 people lost their lives,” Nelson said. “That's why I plan to subject this misguided rule to the Congressional Review Act.”

Lawmakers from New Jersey and Pennsylvania also voiced concerns about the effects on tourism and coastal economies.

Sen. Maggie Hassan, D-New Hampshire, tweeted, "Offshore drilling has caused some of the greatest man-made natural disasters of our time."

Environmental groups call the plan "dirty" and "dangerous."

"The administration's backward-looking approach puts oil and gas profits first -- and will place our coastal communities and all they support at risk of the next BP-style disaster," said Natural Resources Defense Council President Rhea Suh.

In December, Interior issued a stop-work order on a National Academy of Sciences study reviewing the offshore oil and gas operations inspection program to enhance safety.

Zinke repeatedly said Thursday that any offshore drilling lease will come with the condition of safety.

"We will deepen commitment to environmental stewardship, because we do it right," he said.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce praised the move in a statement, saying it "would help cement America's role as an energy superpower, creating jobs and contributing to our economy."

"For decades, our nation has needlessly limited our own ability to harness oil and gas resources. This new plan sets a much different course," the Chamber said.

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