- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 8, 2020

President Trump extended a moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and expanded it to the Atlantic coasts of Florida, Georgia and South Carolina on Tuesday, in an election-year announcement that caught many by surprise.

At an event in Jupiter, Florida, the president signed the order banning offshore drilling, after having promoted more energy exploration for most of the past four years.

“Thanks to my administration’s pro-American energy policies, we can take this step … while remaining the No. 1 producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world,” Mr. Trump said. “We are energy-independent.”

He said, “With fracking, the shale revolution and the tremendous surge in American energy production, we’re showing that we can create jobs, safeguard the environment and keep energy prices low for America and low for our citizens.”

The move is popular in tourist-dependent Florida, where officials worry about the possibility of oil from a spill fouling beaches. In a new poll released Tuesday, the president has pulled even with Democratic nominee Joseph R. Biden in the crucial swing state.

The president said his action should also please residents of Georgia, South Carolina and North Carolina, two of which are battlegrounds in the fall campaign.

In 2018, the administration dropped plans to allow new drilling along the Florida coast after opposition from then-Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican.

Rep. Debbie Mucarsel-Powell, Florida Democrat, called the president’s executive action on Tuesday “temporary, self-serving and weak.”

“Why sign an executive order (that can be reversed) when you can pass a bipartisan law to ban drilling off Florida’s shores?” she tweeted. “I don’t trust Trump, esp. when we’ve already seen his plan for offshore drilling starting after the election.”

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