Two years after his administration set out plans to open the waters of the Atlantic Coast to new offshore oil and gas exploration, President Donald Trump announced Tuesday that he was blocking any such change off the coasts of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina, a major environmental policy reversal less than two months before the 2020 elections.
In a speech in Jupiter, Florida, the President did an about-face on his own proclamation from January of 2018, when his administration proposed allowing offshore exploration in most federal waters - a move which had drawn sharp criticism from Republicans in coastal states.
“After many conversations with @realDonaldTrump on the importance of keeping FL’s coastlines pristine, I’m glad he’s extending the moratorium for another 10 yrs,” tweeted Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL), who had opposed the President’s efforts from the outset.
While offshore oil and gas exploration has long had strong support in coastal communities in the central and western Gulf of Mexico, opposition has long been bipartisan in Florida, and along the Atlantic Coast.
The President’s decision would bar new ‘exploration, development, or production’ of oil and gas resources through June 30, 2032.
“We will always safeguard the magnificent Florida coastline,” President Trump said not far from his home in Palm Beach.
But back in 2017, the President was singing a much different tune, as he called for the federal government to open up drilling in most federal waters of the Arctic Ocean and Atlantic Ocean, reversing a moratorium put in place by President Barack Obama.
“Our country is blessed with incredible natural resources, including abundant offshore oil and natural gas reserves,” the President said on April 28, 2017.
“But the federal government has kept 94 percent of these offshore areas closed for exploration and production. And when they say closed, they mean closed,” Mr. Trump said at the time.
But the President’s push to open offshore waters - especially along the Atlantic Seaboard - had won him few allies among Republicans and their more environmentally conscious voters, and that was quickly noted by GOP lawmakers.
“The decision by President Trump to include South Carolina meets the desires of our coastal communities and state’s leadership,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC).
“I very much appreciate President Trump for listening to our state and delivering for our people,” Graham added.