Story of the Week: U.S. Offshore Drilling – Roll Back of Ban? (Part II)

See previous blog post on this subject: Story of the Week: U.S. Offshore Drilling – Roll Back of Ban (Part I)

The New York Times Headline: Trump Administration Drops Florida From Offshore Drilling Plan
The Washington Post Headline: Decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling prompts bipartisan uproar
The Hill Headline: Bipartisan NJ lawmakers urge Zinke to refrain from offshore drilling

Historical Context (from a week ago): On Thursday, January 4th, 2018, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, announced that drilling bans would be rolled-back.  He noted that drilling opportunities were already identified that could raise $15B in new federal lease revenue.  Zinke announced the 5-year plan stating, “certainly states and local communities have a voice” in this process and that this policy will strengthen America’s energy independence.   

The Story:  The “Florida carve-out” as it is being coined, exempts Florida from the new oil drilling expansion areas, as announced this week by Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke.  A week ago, it was clear there was bipartisan opposition to the oil drilling ban-lifts which included areas of the coast of Florida, and we knew Florida’s political position on this then and see the evidence of its political power now, after this exemption was announced.  Republican and Democratic governors from New Jersey to Florida, Washington to California are united in their opposition to this expansion.  They are asking where their “carve-out” is.

Mike’s Take:  Is this a surprise?

I am wondering why the oil drilling ban lifts were ever even announced?  What was the Interior Secretary and the administration even thinking?  Why announce something, only to start “exempting” impacted states less than a week later?  It does not add up… unless it does?

In one way, think about this strategically in a purely political manner:  Republican administration announces ban… only to exempt a politically powerful state that is led by Republican Governor Rick Scott who might run for the U.S. Senate in that very state this very year.  After “conferring” with local leaders, the Interior Secretary handed Governor Scott a big political victory, seemingly out of thin air.  A problem was created, then solved, and Governor Scott looks strong and on the right side of history.  We can see right through this.  I am thrilled about the outcome.  Though, I surely was not born yesterday.

Expanding offshore (and onshore) oil drilling on/near protected areas is nothing to play political games with.  You know where I stand here.  I hope that the bipartisan calls for the bans to be unaltered and not-lifted are successful.  We will all be winners in the long term. Governor Scott’s election chances notwithstanding.