The Pentagon says maintaining the current moratorium on oil and gas activities in the Gulf of Mexico beyond 2022 is “essential for developing and sustaining our nation's future combat capabilities," according to a letter sent to U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fort Walton Beach.
The Department of Defense "cannot overstate the vital importance of maintaining this moratorium,” Anthony M. Kurta, the acting Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, wrote in the letter, released Monday by Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson's office.
In 2006, Nelson and then-Sen. Mel Martinez, a Republican, successfully brokered a deal to ban oil drilling off much of Florida’s Gulf Coast through most of 2022. As a result, there is currently a no-drilling zone that extends 125 miles off much of Florida’s Gulf Coast and as far as 235 miles at some points to protect vital military training areas in the eastern Gulf until June 30, 2022.
Even as President Donald Trump was signing an executive order encouraging an expansion of offshore drilling, Florida lawmakers from both parties have filed legislation to extend by five years a ban on oil drilling off much of Florida’s Gulf coast until 2027,.
The debate over expanding drilling is occurring just after the seventh anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, which left oil tainting beaches in eight Florida Panhandle counties. Trump just ordered an easing of the safety measures implemented in the wake of that disaster, which killed eleven people and caused billions of dollars in damages.