President Donald Trump signed an executive order on Tuesday to extend the moratorium on offshore drilling activity on Florida’s Gulf Coast to include its Atlantic Coast as well as the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina.
An existing drilling suspension is in effect for the Sunshine State until June 2022, and Trump’s new order will begin July 1, 2022, and will extend for 10 years.
“With fracking, the shale revolution, and the tremendous surge in American energy production, we’re showing that we can create jobs, safeguard the environment and keep energy prices low for America and low for our citizens,” Trump said.
The move was applauded by Gov. Henry McMaster and S.C. Attorney Gen. Alan Wilson and is a reversal from a year ago when Trump attempted to reverse former President Barack Obama’s bans on offshore drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans. U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason ruled the executive order unlawful in March 2019.
Wilson said, “I want to thank the Trump administration for listening to our concerns and announcing the moratorium. We had sued the federal government to protect South Carolina’s coast from oil and gas exploration and drilling. This is a step in the right direction, and we will remain vigilant protecting South Carolina’s coast and economy.”
McMaster said in a statement that seismic testing and offshore drilling threaten the health of the state’s beaches, sea islands and marshes and jeopardizes the future of the state’s $24 billion tourism industry.
“Today’s announcement is good news, but we must remain vigilant in the conservation and preservation of our coastline,” he said.
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden responded on Twitter, saying, “Just months ago, Donald Trump was planning to allow oil and gas drilling off the coast of Florida. Now, with 56 days until the election, he conveniently says that he changed his mind. Unbelievable.”
Rep. Joe Cunningham, a Democrat who focused his 2018 congressional campaign around banning offshore drilling, said Trump’s 10-year moratorium is a result of constant pressure from coastal communities that believe offshore drilling is dangerous, unwanted, and a threat to the economy and its residents’ way of life.
“But make no mistake, as quickly as the president changed his mind on offshore drilling two months before an election, he could change his mind right back the day after the election,” he said. “The only way we can make sure our coasts are safe for future generations and give coastal communities the certainty they deserve is to pass my bipartisan legislation to permanently ban offshore drilling.”
In 2019, Cunningham wrote a bill, H.R. 1941, The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act, aimed at permanently banning offshore oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific Coasts. It passed the House of Representatives in September but is still awaiting review by the Senate.s