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Florida senators Scott, Rubio, renew push to extend oil and gas moratorium in eastern Gulf

Special to Gannett

WASHINGTON — Florida's two U.S. senators, Republicans Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, have reintroduced the Florida Shores Protection and Fairness Act in Congress, according to Friday afternoon announcements from their respective offices.

The bill would extend the moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for 10 years beyond its currently scheduled expiration on June 30, 2022.

The bill to extend the moratorium to 2032 would "help solidify the progress made by President Trump’s September 2020 executive actions to protect Florida’s shores," according to the announcements from the two senators' offices.

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Trump's executive order, which could be undone, extended the moratorium from its scheduled June 30, 2022 end to 2032.

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The moratorium is important for the future of both the state's tourism industry and to the U.S. military, which uses the 120,000-square-mile Gulf Test Range in the eastern Gulf for a variety of munitions testing and training activities. The range is overseen by the 96th Test Wing at Eglin Air Force Base.

Republican Rep. Matt Gaetz, who represents Northwest Florida in Congress, consistently has called preserving and enhancing the range his 'top legislative priority."

In the Friday announcement, Scott noted that during his service as Florida's governor, he "secured a commitment from the Trump administration to keep oil drilling off Florida’s coasts, and I’m glad they extended the moratorium on oil drilling for another 10 years."

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Scott added that he and Rubio "will never stop fighting to preserve and protect Florida’s natural resources so the state can remain a top destination for families, visitors and businesses.”

Rubio first introduced the Florida Shores Protection and Fairness Act in 2017, and reintroduced it in 2019.

An F-35 A Lightning II from California's Edwards Air Force Base fires a missile over the Gulf Test Range, which covers 120,000 square miles of the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Florida's two U.S. senators, Republicans Rick Scott and Marco Rubio, are renewing an effort to extend a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico until 2032. Extending the moratorium would protect the future of the test range and Florida's tourism industry.

“Protecting Florida’s vital coastlines and ensuring our state receives equitable treatment is one of my top priorities,” Rubio said in Friday's announcement. “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."

The renewed push on his bill, Rubio said, "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,” Rubio added.