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Rubio Touts Everglades Funding, Questions Secretary Bernhardt About Offshore Drilling

May 22, 2019 | Comunicados de Prensa

Washington, D.C. — Today, U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) questioned Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt about the current moratorium on offshore drilling off the coast of Florida, and touted President Trump’s action to increase the administration’s budget request for Everglades restoration funds to the full $200 million requested by the Florida congressional delegation during an Appropriations Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies hearing.
In February, Senator Rubio, Governor DeSantis, and Senator Scott urged President Trump to include a sustained annual commitment of $200 million in construction funding for South Florida Ecosystem Restoration (SFER) in his administration’s future budget requests to Congress. After Senator Rubio tweeted earlier this month about Everglades funding and spoke with the president, President Trump tweeted confirming that the administration will be fighting for $200 million in annual funding for Everglades restoration. The House Appropriations Committee approved the president’s amended budget request yesterday.
A transcript of Rubio’s remarks .
Rubio: Thank you for being here. I don’t have any homes for you to study, but we should. Florida, unfortunately has not been successful at electing a new president yet. We tried, but two people going and it didn’t work out. Anyway, first of all let me start by thanking you. I think the President amending his budget request to the full $200 million for the Everglades is extraordinary, and this is not just an environmental project, it most certainly is, it is intricately tied to all of the water issues which have an extraordinary economic impact on the state, and you’re the Chair of the South Florida Ecosystem Restoration Task force and we have a very united delegation. In fact, I wanted to thank our delegation in the House yesterday for getting that in there in their appropriations process. So, we look forward to working with you to ensure the expedited implementation of the Comprehensive Everglades Restoration Plan. As you’re well aware, and as we’ve discussed, the federal government has fallen behind in its commitment, the State of Florida has lived up to it.
There’s a second issue that we’ve spoken about and previously discussed at length, and that’s the offshore drilling potential off the coast of Florida. As we’ve discussed in the past, I do think when it comes to Florida, there are some special considerations before determining where drilling and where exploration should be able to take place. Let me start by saying I am an enormous supporter of American energy independence. I think we have seen both the economic and geopolitical benefits of it. And that’s why last year I voted alongside the Chairwoman to allow exploration in designated areas of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. It’s my belief that this nation’s status as a net importer of energy had constrained our foreign policy options for way too long, and Alaskans were clearly interested in the economic opportunities available to them from this.
The situation in Florida is different. Number one — and I think it would be very wise, as we’ve discussed, for the administration to recognize the difference — first of all, among Floridians, there is virtually no support for drilling off the coast of Florida. There is none among our delegation, there has been none among any leading statewide political office holders for as far as I can remember. I haven’t seen any public polling on it recently, but I assure you it would not do well. And there’s a lot of reasons behind. One of it is, our coastal economies. Literally the entire economy of much of coastal Florida is directly related to access to the water, and that includes our fisheries. The other is one that people may not be as aware of. It’s military readiness. As you know, out in the Eastern Gulf, we have a very unique test range that’s utilized by the U.S. military. We have nothing else like it domestically and there’s real concern about anything out there. Put it to you this way, the military doesn’t want anything down there that they can’t blow up because it’s a very valuable test range. And you add to that the fact that there are ample oil and gas reserves already available for leasing and extraction activities, both on land and offshore. As you can see we’re now set to become a net energy exporter by next year. And that’s why I support, at a minimum, an extension of this 2006 congressional moratorium on drilling activities beyond 2022 in the Eastern Gulf.
If we put aside for a minute the environmental and the economic concerns, the one thing that does concern me is it is clear that the administration believes that the military training and weapons testing occurring in the joint gulf range complex can coexist to some degree with drilling and related activities. The military leaders I’ve spoken to have all said that they don’t agree with that view. So I think the first question I would have is, if it comes down to a final decision and we have this intractable conflict in the Eastern Gulf between the Interior Department and the Secretary of Defense, how in your view is that issue resolved and who wins out?
Mr. Bernhardt: So, first off, I really appreciate the question and the information, and we’ve talked about these issues a little bit in the past. But in terms of the defense issue, I don’t think there would ever be an intractable conflict. And the reason I say that is we work very closely with Defense and to the extent that they’ve told you a view, you know, I can’t imagine a situation under our current MOU where they would have an interest and we would be in a conflict. And to the extent that that existed, it would have to rise to my, and I guess the Secretary of Defense’s paradigm to work out, but I do not believe for a minute that Interior would ever get to that situation. We take the military’s issues very seriously, we listen to them very closely about their needs, and I just do not see that happening.