The federal official overseeing offshore drilling policy said there has been no "official decision" that Florida is off the table, contradicting a public announcement by his boss, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
Democrats have charged Zinke's announcement that Florida would be removed from the Outer Continental Shelf Offshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program plan was a "political stunt" to help Rick Scott, the state's Republican governor whom President Donald Trump has urged to run for the Senate seat now held by Democrat Bill Nelson. Cruickshank said Zinke's statement, made on social media, "stands on its own" and "is not a formal action". So last week, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke flew to Tallahassee to meet with Scott and suddenly declared at the Tallahassee airport that Florida was "off the table". Cruickshank said the entire program would be evaluated but again said Zinke's statement stands and would be taken into account.
"It is not a formal action, no....we will be including [Florida] in the analysis for the decisions which will come out later this year".
Democrat Nelson is running for re-election and is expected to face Republican Scott.
"This confirms what we all suspected: There is no deal to protect Florida from drilling".
"...[H] ere is what I find fascinating today - a lot of people want to talk about politics, what they ought to be doing is they ought to be making sure we keep government going".
Following an appearance Friday afternoon at a National Guard event in Miami, Scott said he hadn't heard Cruickshank's comments but was clear on the commitment he had from Zinke.
"Cruikshank simply said BOEM will finish the legally-required analysis of the planning areas, as is always done for all planning areas", she said. He's a Navy Seal.
Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, called for legislation to permanently ban drilling off Florida's coast.