Thank you, Gov. Rick Scott and Department of Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, for the wonderful lesson in conflict resolution.
It appeared two worlds were colliding off the Florida coast. One world emphasized the protection of our national security through energy dominance. The other world promoted protecting Florida’s beaches as they are the leading economic engine for our economy, namely tourism.
An adult conversation between the two leaders representing these two conflicting views resolved the policy disagreement in a manner that we should commend. Zinke heard the governor’s appeal and agreed to remove Florida from the administration’s draft offshore drilling plan.
It started when the Department of Interior announced the Trump administration’s plan to open the outer continental shelf (OCS) to potential leases for energy resource exploration and development.
Currently, only about 6 percent of the OCS is available for this. The Trump administration proposed to make more than 90 percent available for future consideration. Its draft proposal program (DPP) authorized 47 potential lease sales within the next five-year program, beginning in 2022. Of these, six sales were in “Florida waters,” two in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, three in the South Atlantic and one in the Straits of Florida.
The governor immediately objected, along with other Florida leaders such as Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson, and Reps. Daniel Webster and Ron DeSantis. They objected with good reason.
Those of us living in Florida know we are the top tourist destination in the world, and our state economy depends on this. Our beaches, Central Florida’s attractions, boating and fishing bring tens of millions of tourists annually who spend billions of dollars. This expands our state economy and creates the need for jobs, jobs and more jobs. Additionally, many private property owners have invested their hard-earned resources to enjoy oceanfront and ocean-view property. Our beaches and these properties deserve protection from potential harm or unsightly additions on the horizon.
Kudos to Scott for immediately taking action to arrange a meeting with Zinke. And kudos to Zinke and President Donald Trump for listening to Florida’s concerns.
It should be noted, the DPP has great merit for our nation overall. For decades, the pursuit of abundant, reliable and affordable energy — free from dependence on other nations — has been an important goal.
America’s trading partners haven’t always remained stable. OPEC attempted to control production and price. Iran became a sponsor of terrorism. Venezuela unraveled due to its socialist/totalitarian regime. But, with the advent of technological advances such as horizontal drilling, extraction of shale oil, hydraulic fracking and offshore drilling at ever-increasing depths, the U.S. is on the verge of achieving this goal. Trump envisions not just a country in control of its own energy production and delivery, but a nation with the security and economic benefits of being a dominant energy exporter.
Over the past several years, technology has revealed many ways to explore and drill for energy sources that are environmentally safe, despite reasonable concerns formed by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. It is estimated that there are nearly 500 offshore rigs around the world. Of those, 95 are in the Gulf of Mexico. While most spills occur when transporting oil, the perception remains that the majority of spills occur when drilling. Consequently, it was no surprise that Florida elected officials, nearly across the board, called for the administration to continue the moratorium prohibiting drilling off Florida’s coast.
The governor and secretary demonstrated how two leaders with opposing policy views can come together, discuss differences based on facts of the day, and reach consensus in a manner that creates value for all stakeholders. This is a model for how governing can and should take place.
McClure is president and CEO of The James Madison Institute, a conservative think tank based in Tallahassee. Rooney represents Florida's 19th Congressional District in Southwest Florida. He is vice chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce.