Sen. Marco Rubio wants Florida to get share of Gulf of Mexico oil lease revenue
WASHINGTON, D.C. — What thus far has been a four-year effort on the part of Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., to keep oil and gas exploration out of the eastern Gulf of Mexico waters along Florida's coast is continuing.
Last week, Rubio reintroduced the Florida Shores Protection and Fairness Act, a bill that would extend a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico until 2032, alleviating any potential negative effects on tourism.
The moratorium, established by Congress in the 2006 Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act, had been scheduled to expire on June 30, 2022, but in September of last year, then-president Donald Trump signed an executive order extending the moratorium until 2032, and adding the Atlantic Ocean coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina to the ban on offshore oil and gas exploration.
Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort, where he has plans to live following the Jan. 20 end of his presidency, lies along the Atlantic coast in South Florida.
“This protects your beautiful Gulf and your beautiful ocean, and it will for a long time to come," Trump said in a visit to Florida during which he signed the executive order.
However, as Rubio noted in comments last week on his reintroduction of the Florida Shores Protection and Fairness Act, legislation is needed to ensure that the provisions of Trump's executive order remain in place.
“I am thankful the Trump administration took steps last year to ensure the ban on oil drilling off of Florida remains in place beyond 2022, but we must do more," said Rubio. "This legislation would codify the protections that President Trump implemented by executive action, ensuring that Florida’s shores will remain safe. ... It is imperative that Congress passes this bill to ensure that the presidential moratorium cannot be revoked.”
In addition to extending protection for Florida's Gulf Coast tourism industry, an additional decade of the moratorium also would protect military operations in the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range, a 120,000-square-mile area of the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Managed by the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base, the range accommodates an array of military activities for a variety of U.S. military services, from air combat training to munitions testing.
The current U.S. defense budget includes $15 million for modernizing the telemetry equipment used in the range, some of which has become antiquated to the point of making data collection on munitions testing problematic.
Beyond extending the moratorium, Rubio's legislation — co-sponsored by Rep. Rick Scott, R-Fla., the state's other senator — also would make Florida eligible for a share of oil and gas lease revenue now paid out to Alabama, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas under the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act.
The revenue is intended to compensate the states for their share of the risks posed by drilling in the western and central Gulf of Mexico, and Florida was excluded because of the moratorium on oil and gas exploration. But in 2010, effects of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig disaster extended to the Gulf Coast of Florida, with impacts on both the environment and the area's tourism industry.
The oil and gas lease revenue totals millions of dollars for each state entitled to a share of the money. For the fiscal year that ended on Sept. 30 of last year, Louisiana and some of its local governments received almost $156 million. Texas and some of its local governments received $95.2 million, with Mississippi and some of its localities receiving almost $52 million and Alabama and some of its local governments receiving $50 million.
Rubio originally introduced the Florida Shores Protection and Fairness Act in 2017, the first year of the Trump administration, but the proposal, at that time calling for just a five-year extension of the moratorium, never made it out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
Rubio reintroduced the measure in 2019, again seeking just a five-year extension of the moratorium. But, as in 2017, the measure never made it out of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.