THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, Dec. 2, 2010 --
Before meeting Thursday with President Barack Obama and other newly-elected governors, Florida Gov.-elect Rick Scott complained he was not notified of Obama’s decision to ban oil drilling in federal waters in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and parts of the Atlantic.
The Interior Department announced the decision Wednesday, reversing a policy from earlier in the year.
"It was surprising that they didn't wait," Scott told reporters in Washington, D.C. "I was not contacted, I don't think Gov. Crist was contacted. And I was invited to a meeting…in the White House, so first off you’d think they could have waited and explained it to us.”
Scott’s transition team had already said late Wednesday evening that Scott thought the drilling ban would hurt an already-sagging national economy. Thursday, the soon-to-be 45th governor of Florida was one of 28 state chief executives meeting with Obama, and he said he “absolutely” planned to let the president know of his displeasure.
“I oppose what they did,” Scott said. “We want to become independent in this country, and part of that is looking to see if we can do offshore drilling safely. So a more logical approach, from my standpoint, would have been to say…what’s the path we’re going to get to be able to do it, if at all, rather than just saying point blank we’re not going to do it.”
Prior to the explosion at the Deepwater Horizon oil rig and the spill that ensued, Obama had said he would allow exploration in federal waters, which angered environmentalists who supported his candidacy in 2008.
However, on Wednesday U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced drilling would be allowed in bodies of water where it is already taking place, which Scott derided as “yet another example of government regulation impeding economic growth.”
“Florida is committed to pursuing energy independence, which is essential to national security,” the governor-elect said in a statement released by his Fort Lauderdale-based transition office. “With sound policies in place, we could expand domestic drilling and eliminate our reliance on foreign oil. Furthermore, I am disappointed that the White House has chosen to unilaterally impose a policy that threatens job creation and economic growth in Florida without consulting our office.”
Crist, however, has praised the decision, telling reporters in Tallahassee that "to be clean and green as we go forward as a state and nation is only good for Florida."
U.S. Sen.-elect Marco Rubio, however, was, like Scott, sharply critical of the announcement, saying “the administration's new policy is an obstacle to job creation and imperils our national security by making us more dependent on foreign oil from hostile regimes.”
"I believe offshore oil exploration should continue to be part of America's energy mix, so long as it can be done safely,” Rubio said in a statement. “On this issue, the White House should have left politics out of the equation and based its decision on sound energy policy that advances our economic development and national security goals."
Rubio’s Democratic counterpart, Sen. Bill Nelson, who was also meeting with Scott this week, said during a national television interview that “there's simply not going to be any drilling off of Florida as long as I'm senator.”
That stance drew criticism from state Senate President Mike Haridopolos, who is widely believed to be angling to challenge Nelson when he is up for re-election in 2012.
"It's another example of a job-killing policy led by the President and, unfortunately, embraced by Sen. Bill Nelson," Haridopolos said.
Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, had been a vocal support of a plan to allow drilling in near-shore state waters, but after the BP oil spill, both he and House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, said they would not push the legislation during their terms at the helm of the Florida Legislature.