Trump administration bars oil drilling off Florida after governor's plea

WASHINGTON, Jan 9 (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's administration will not allow drilling for oil and gas off the coast of Florida after urging from the state's governor, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said on Tuesday.

"I support the governor's position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver," Zinke said in a statement. "As a result of discussion with Governor (Rick) Scott and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms."

The Trump administration last week proposed opening nearly all U.S. offshore waters to oil and gas drilling, a move aimed at boosting domestic energy production and which sparked protests from coastal states, environmentalists and the tourism industry.

The administration's decision on Tuesday removes from consideration a portion of the eastern Gulf of Mexico, an area that oil drillers have said they are interested in exploring – but not all of it.

Florida state waters extend 3 nautical miles from the shore on the Atlantic, and 9 nautical miles on the Gulf side, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Scott last week announced his opposition to the drilling plan and said he had asked to meet with Zinke.

Zinke's decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling leaves the door open for other governors opposed to offshore oil and gas development to seek a similar prohibition for their states.

18 PHOTOS
Oil spill off coast of California
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Oil spill off coast of California
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 20: Oil covers rocks on the beach near Refugio State Beach on May 20, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 20: Oil covers the sand at low tide near Refugio State Beach on May 20, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 20: Oil covers rocks on the beach near Refugio State Beach on May 20, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Spilled oil covers the beach at Refugio State Beach as the Channel Islands are seen in the distance on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Spilled oil covers the beach at Refugio State Beach as the Channel Islands are seen in the distance on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: A boat with the nonprofit collective Clean Seas deploys a boom, with an oil platform seen in the distance, to try to contain an oil spill on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast in 1969 where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Campers leave the Refugio State Beach campground after it is closed because of an oil spill on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast in 1969 where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Local residents Josh Marsh and Morgan Miller (R) patrol the oil-covered beach for distressed wildlife on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast in 1969 where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Oil surrounds the feet of local resident Morgan Miller as he patrols the beach for oiled wildlife on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast in 1969 where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Officials walk along an the oil-covered beach as night falls on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast in 1969 where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Local residents Josh Marsh and Morgan Miller (R) patrol the oil-covered beach for distressed wildlife on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast in 1969 where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Spilled oil covers the beach at Refugio State Beach as the Channel Islands are seen in the distance on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
GOLETA, CALIFORNIA - MAY 19: Officials walk along an the oil-covered beach on May 19, 2015 north of Goleta, California. About 21,000 gallons spilled from an abandoned pipeline on the land near Refugio State Beach, spreading over about four miles of beach within hours. The largest oil spill ever in U.S. waters at the time occurred in the same section of the coast in 1969 where numerous offshore oil platforms can be seen, giving birth to the modern American environmental movement. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Local residents stand on oil covered rocks and sand at Refugio State Beach in Goleta, California, May 19, 2015. An oil pipeline ruptured dumping oil into the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara, California, the US Coast Guard said. The spill was estimated at 21,000 gallons (80,000 liters) of oil, local media reported. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Officers from the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) set up a restricted area at Refugio State Beach after an oil spill in Goleta, California, May 19, 2015. An oil pipeline ruptured dumping oil into the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara, California, the US Coast Guard said. The spill was estimated at 21,000 gallons (80,000 liters) of oil, local media reported. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Two trawlers lay yellow booms to contain an oil slick at Refugio State Beach in Goleta, California, May 19, 2015. An oil pipeline ruptured dumping oil into the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara, California, the US Coast Guard said. The spill was estimated at 21,000 gallons (80,000 liters) of oil, local media reported. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Two brown pelicans fly low over the oil slick at Refugio State Beach in Goleta, California, May 19, 2015. An oil pipeline ruptured dumping oil into the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara, California, the US Coast Guard said. The spill was estimated at 21,000 gallons (80,000 liters) of oil, local media reported. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
Oil covers a local resident's boot at Refugio State Beach in Goleta, California, May 19, 2015. An oil pipeline ruptured dumping oil into the Pacific Ocean near Santa Barbara, California, the US Coast Guard said. The spill was estimated at 21,000 gallons (80,000 liters) of oil, local media reported. AFP PHOTO/ ROBYN BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images)
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Oceana, an environmental lobby group, said it was pleased that Zinke had removed Florida from areas open to drilling.

"Such a quick reversal begs the question: Will the Trump administration give equal consideration to all the other coastal Governors from both parties who overwhelmingly reject this radical offshore drilling plan?" Oceana campaign director Diane Hoskins said in a statement.

On Twitter, several governors, attorneys general and lawmakers representing coastal states asked Zinke to extend the exemption for Florida to their coastal waters. The governors of New York and Oregon and the attorneys general of Maryland and California were among those who called on Zinke to ban offshore drilling.

Environmental groups Greenpeace and the League of Conservation Voters called the move to protect Florida a political ploy meant to bolster the governor who is reportedly planning to run for an open U.S. Senate seat.

"President Trump has directed me to rebuild our offshore oil and gas program in a manner that supports our national energy policy and also takes into consideration the local and state voice," Zinke said in Tuesday's statement.

Zinke said last week that the department's draft National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2019 to 2024 would make over 90 percent of the outer continental shelf’s total acreage available for leasing to drillers, a national record.

That would reverse the Obama administration order placing 94 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf off limits to drillers. Obama's 2017-2022 plan would be replaced by the new program when it is finalized.

The effort to open previously off-limits acreage in the Atlantic, Arctic and Pacific oceans comes less than eight years after BP Plc's Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico - the largest in American history. The disaster caused billions of dollars in economic damage and led the Obama administration to increase regulation of the industry.

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BP oil spill
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Plumes of smoke are seen as oil is burned off the surface of the water near the source of the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico off the coast of Louisiana June 19, 2010. REUTERS/Lee Celano (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT ENERGY BUSINESS)
Oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill is visible near the beach on Barataria Bay, Louisiana June 9, 2010. British energy giant BP's stock price plunged to a 14-year low in U.S. trading on Wednesday amid concerns over its ability to meet mounting costs of the giant Gulf of Mexico oil spill. President Barack Obama's administration, getting tough as polls show public disapproval over its handling of the worst oil spill in U.S. history, threatened new penalties on the company. REUTERS/Lee Celano (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER ENVIRONMENT ENERGY BUSINESS)
Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the offshore oil rig Deepwater Horizon, off Louisiana, in this handout photograph taken on April 21, 2010 and obtained on April 22. Eleven workers were missing and 17 injured in an explosion at the Transocean oil drilling rig, and crews were fighting the fire 16 hours later, the U.S. Coast Guard said on Wednesday. An estimated 126 people were aboard the Deepwater Horizon at the time of the explosion. Picture taken April 21, 2010. REUTERS/U.S. Coast Guard/Handout (UNITED STATES - Tags: DISASTER ENERGY IMAGES OF THE DAY) FOR EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NOT FOR SALE FOR MARKETING OR ADVERTISING CAMPAIGNS
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The Defense Department has also raised concerns about opening drilling that had been banned off the eastern Gulf of Mexico, where military exercises are held.

(Reporting by Eric Beech; Writing by Eric Walsh; Editing by Leslie Adler)

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