WASHINGTON — In just four years, a ban on drilling off the eastern Gulf is set to expire. But the Sunshine state’s congressional delegation is determined to make sure that doesn’t happen.

  • Offshore drilling ban for Gulfcoast set to expire 2022
  • Florida Congressional Delegation fighting to stop that
  • Plans call to extend or make permanent the ban

“Twenty-seven members, the third largest delegation in Congress is standing together," said Rep. Darren Soto, D-Kissimmee. "That spells a good sign for us keeping oil drilling off our shores.”

“We saw what happened with the Deepwater Horizon spill and how even when there isn’t significant damage to our beaches, even the specter of that possibility causes a dramatic drop in our tourism,” said Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-District 23 in aoutheast Florida.

The Trump Administration is rapidly working to reduce regulations, with the goal of expanding offshore oil exploration to maintain the U.S.’s ranking as the leading producer of oil and natural gas.

“The oil states, Texas, Alabama, Louisiana and Mississippi Republicans are very much against the moratorium, and they have very strong influence with the oil and gas industry there and I’m fighting them,” said Rep. Francis Rooney, R-District 19 in southwest Florida.

At least twice since the beginning of this year, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had indicated that drilling would not be allowed off the coast of Florida. But, the area is still included in a Trump Administration proposal that would open federal waters along parts of America’s coastline to oil and gas exploration.

“Anything that is done administratively can be changed administratively as well and hung up in the courts, and that’s why we need to get a law passed, to protect Florida,” Rooney said.

Rooney has proposed legislation that would permanently ban oil and gas drilling off certain areas of the Gulf of Mexico. Congresswoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz introduced a bill to extend the current ban from 2022 to 2027.

Recently, the Department of Defense released a report that found oil and gas exploration could potentially interfere with military training and testing. Florida lawmakers hope to use that ban as evidence to stop drilling. Military testing and training is done in the eastern Gulf.