On January 4, the Department of the Interior (DOI) released its draft proposed program for oil and gas leasing on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). The proposed plan would end a broad ban on drilling imposed by President Obama and allow leasing and drilling on over 98 percent of the OCS, including the waters off Florida's Atlantic and Gulf coasts. The Eastern Gulf of Mexico is subject to a congressional moratorium until 2022, but the new plan would commence sales in that region in 2023.
On January 9, after a brief meeting with Florida Governor Rick Scott, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that, contrary to the proposal, he was removing Florida's coast from any consideration for new "oil and gas platforms." Zinke's reported explanation for his decision referenced the governor, his leadership and trustworthiness, his work with the administration on Everglades restoration, Florida's uniqueness, and its economic reliance on coastal tourism.
One might assume that this announcement meant that Florida was no longer at risk from offshore drilling. But from a legal perspective, Zinke's announcement lacked any legal force or effect. Indeed, in an ironic twist, this announcement made any eventual effort to provide protection for Florida's waters legally vulnerable.
The protection Zinke promised lacks any legal force because it is not an official action taken by the secretary. He is not bound by it. He could tweet ...