This week, U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, R-Fla., doubled down on his efforts to “permanently ban oil and gas leasing, preleasing, and related activities in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.”
Back in January, Rooney introduced a bill amending the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006.
“Water quality impacts all of Florida’s residents and visitors,” Rooney said when he introduced his proposal. “I want to ensure that all areas east of the Military Mission Line in the Gulf of Mexico are permanently protected from offshore oil drilling. In 2022, the moratorium on drilling and exploration will expire. Offshore drilling will negatively affect our environment, tourism, and military readiness. I am fighting to protect our Florida coast for future generations to enjoy - Florida’s economy is dependent on clean water and a healthy environment.”
This week, Rooney ramped up his efforts, testifying before the U.S. House Rules Committee on the bill.
“Additionally, Florida’s tourism economy faces an existential threat from offshore drilling,” the Southwest Florida Republican insisted. “Deepwater Horizon may be the most infamous recent Gulf oil spill but there are many other occurrences of leaks, some still happening, like the Taylor Energy spill, which has dumped over one million gallons of oil over fourteen years. The fact that there have been pipeline to well head leaks every few years by some of the industry’s best operators show that the environmental danger cannot be sufficiently eliminated to justify the risks more offshore drilling presents.
“In addition to the risks to our economy, we don’t need to take this risk to be energy secure anymore. The United States is now a net exporter of oil, meaning that current supply exceeds domestic demand,” Rooney said in conclusion. “The economic, environmental, and national security case for extending the drilling moratorium is strong. We must act now to safeguard our Gulf and our way of life in Florida.”
Back in the April, the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee’s Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a hearing on Rooney’s bill. So far, the congressman has been able to reel in almost 20 cosponsors, 12 of which come from Florida, including original cosponsor U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Fla. However, there is no companion measure to Rooney’s bill over in the U.S. Senate.
This is not a new issue for Rooney. Early last year, he unveiled the “Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act” which would ensure the federal moratorium banning oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico would become permanent. In 2017, Rooney threw his support behind Castor’s “Florida Coastal Protection Act" which would also make the moratorium on drilling in the eastern Gulf and around parts of South Florida permanent. Rooney also backed U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz’s, D-Fla., “Marine Oil Spill Prevention Act" which extends the moratorium until 2027.
First elected to Congress in 2016 to represent parts of Southwest Florida, Rooney served as ambassador to the Holy See during then President George W. Bush’s second term. He represents a solidly Republican district.