President Biden’s Build Back Better bill, approved this month by the US Congress and now being debated in the Senate, includes among its climate-related plans a permanent ban on offshore drilling off the eastern Gulf Coast.
Offshore drilling has been banned in federal waters off Florida since 2006 through a series of time-limited moratoriums. The current moratorium is scheduled to expire in June 2022.
In September 2020, just weeks before the US election, former President Trump signed an executive order to extend the ban for a further 10 years, until 2032. However, because executive orders can be changed, Florida lawmakers are hopeful the legislation will pass to permanently ban drilling.
In April this year, a bipartisan group of Florida representatives reintroduced legislation originally reviewed in 2019 – which passed in Congress, but died when the Senate did not vote on it – to permanently ban offshore oil drilling in the Florida Gulf waters. That legislation made its way into the Build Back Better bill.
Democratic Representative Kathy Castor, from Tampa, Florida, said a ban would not be “the be-all, end-all” in this initiative. “We’ll have to continue to work to make sure we’re closing out those dirty leaking wells and pipes on the Florida Gulf of Mexico,” she said.