Just two weeks after taking a bold stand in support of President Trump, a Florida Republican congressman finds himself starkly at odds with the administration’s decision that could open the Gulf Coast of his home state to offshore drilling.
“I share the administration’s goal of energy independence,” Francis Rooney told Bellwether. “I just don’t think that offshore drilling’s risks, or the service industry that’s needed to support it, is compatible with our tourist and recreational economy. I’ve asked for a carve-out of Florida.”
Rooney is strongly opposed to the announcement by Trump’s Interior Secretary, Ryan Zinke, which would open millions of offshore acres on both coasts to oil and gas drilling. Specifically, Rooney wants the waters off his hometown of Naples and the other beachfront communities he represents, to be excluded from any new drilling rights.
He’d heard rumors of the Interior Department’s intentions, but did not get any advance notice of Zinke’s announcement. “I wouldn’t say I feel betrayed,” he told me. “Friends don’t always agree about everything. But I disagree with this proposal of the administration.” Rooney wrote a letter to Zinke outlining his objections, but has not yet received a response.
It was just last month that Rooney put himself in the media’s crosshairs on Trump’s behalf. He told Bellwether then that both the FBI and Special Counsel Robert Mueller – not Trump -- should be investigated. Specifically, he wants to look into possible misuse of power in the probes of Trump’s and his advisers’ contacts with Russia before his inauguration.
Rooney wants the waters off his hometown of Naples and the other beachfront communities he represents, to be excluded from any new drilling rights.
Given his fulsome gesture of support, Rooney hopes that Trump and his Interior Secretary will consider his objections. “I agree with his goals. I agree with a lot of what he’s done. But this is one area where we need to carve Florida out. There are a lot of places that are compatible with offshore drilling. The Gulf Coast isn’t one of them.” Beach tourism in Florida brings the state about $50 billion of income a year.
Rooney dismisses the suggestion that he’s engaged in a NIMBY – not in my backyard – campaign. “If Texas, Louisiana and Alabama want offshore drilling, more power to them. The reason we don’t want it off our Gulf coast is we’re different. Our bays and estuaries are full of houses and condos. It’s absolutely incompatible for us to have that high quality residential development with the kind of infrastructure necessary to support oil production.”
In other words, friends don’t let friends drill dumb.