Florida senator releases DOD letters backing eastern gulf moratorium

The office of US Sen. Bill Nelson (D) of Florida released two letters on July 11 from officials at the US Department of Defense urging retention of a moratorium on offshore oil and gas leasing in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The office of US Sen. Bill Nelson (D) of Florida released two letters on July 11 from officials at the US Department of Defense urging retention of a moratorium on offshore oil and gas leasing in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The action came a day before a scheduled meeting of the US House of Representative’s Natural Resources Committee subcommittee to examine possible oil and gas development on the US Outer Continental Shelf.

Nelson, a long-time foe of any such activity off Florida’s coast, and 16 House members from the Sunshine State, previously urged US Sec. of the Interior Ryan Zinke to keep the eastern gulf off-limits if he moved ahead to develop a new federal OCS resource management plan (OGJ Online, Mar. 24, 2017).

“Drilling near Florida’s coast poses a direct threat to Florida’s environment and multibillion-dollar, tourism-driven economy,” Nelson said on Apr. 27 when he and 18 other Senate Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) cosponsored Sen. Edward J. Markey’s (D-Mass.) bill aimed at preventing Zinke from revising the 2017-22 plan which went into effect on July 1.

“Ever since I was a young congressman, I’ve been fighting to keep oil rigs away from Florida’s coast and I’m not going to stop now,” Nelson said in April.

Zinke subsequently announced that the 2017-22 OCS program would remain in effect while DOI prepares a new one for the 2019-24 period (OGJ Online, June 30, 2017).

“The moratorium is essential for developing and sustaining the Air Force’s future combat capabilities,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in a June 27 letter to Nelson. “Although the Gulf of Mexico Security Act’s moratorium the certainty of the proposed extension to guarantee long-term capabilities for future tests.”

A second letter—from A.M. Kurta on behalf of the US under-secretary of Defense for personnel and readiness to US Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) on Apr. 26—said emerging technologies such as hypersonics, autonomous systems, and advanced subsurface systems “will require enlarged testing and training footprints” and increased DOD reliance on the moratorium beyond 2022.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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