Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Scott-O-Meter

Explore expansion of domestic drilling in a safe, environmentally sound way

"Rick will fight to ensure than any future offshore drilling does not negatively impact Florida's beaches. As we explore the expansion of domestic drilling in the U.S., we must ensure that we have sound policies in place that ensure the companies drilling are doing so in an environmentally sound way and adhering to the strictest of safety standards."


Updates

Rick Scott's oil drilling talk has come up dry

Oil drilling was a hot topic in Florida in 2010 after the Deepwater Horizon explosion that year.

As Rick Scott campaigned for governor, he stated on his campaign website:

"Rick will fight to ensure than any future offshore drilling does not negatively impact Florida's beaches. As we explore the expansion of domestic drilling in the U.S., we must ensure that we have sound policies in place that ensure the companies drilling are doing so in an environmentally sound way and adhering to the strictest of safety standards."

To be clear, this promise is both about expanding oil drilling and doing it safely.

So where do things stand?

We first rated this promise In the Works after Scott took some small steps, including holding a January 2011 meeting with former senator and former Gov. Bob Graham, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as co-chairman of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. They met for 35 minutes to discuss the commission's report.

But after Scott's first year in office we changed the rating to Promise Stalled because Scott had done little to meet his goal. (We are tracking other energy-related promises including to lower electricity costs for businesses, expand the use of nuclear and alternative fuels and reform the Public Service Commission for more energy production.)

During Scott's first year as governor, energy policy adviser Mary Bane was supposed to create a state energy policy to address offshore drilling and other topics. But Bane retired in January 2013, and we can't find any evidence that such a policy was created.

We contacted Scott's office and the office of Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, who oversees an energy office.

"We have not had any requests to explore this policy further," Putnam spokeswoman Erin Gillespie told PolitiFact Florida. "We are also unaware of any bills related that have been filed in recent sessions."

We checked in with a couple of environmental activists -- Eric Draper, the director of Audubon Florida and Susan Glickman, a clean energy lobbyist -- who couldn't cite any new steps Scott had taken toward his oil drilling promise.

"Scott has done nothing on energy or oil drilling whatsoever," Glickman said. "Certainly nothing to make oil drilling safer."

A spokesman for Scott said he had no updates to provide PolitiFact Florida. We have seen no significant steps by Scott to explore drilling in a safe, environmentally sound way.

We rate this Promise Broken.

Sources:

Orlando Sentinel, "Slim focus on energy issues for Legislature," May 14, 2013

Interview, Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon Florida, Sept. 27, 2013

Interview, Susan Glickman, consultant to Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Sept. 27, 2013

Interview, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, Sept. 27, 2013

Interview, John Tupps, Gov. Rick Scott spokesman, Sept. 30, 2013

Not much has happened on safe oil drilling promise

After the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon explosion, Rick Scott stated on his campaign website:

"Rick will fight to ensure than any future offshore drilling does not negatively impact Florida's beaches. As we explore the expansion of domestic drilling in the U.S., we must ensure that we have sound policies in place that ensure the companies drilling are doing so in an environmentally sound way and adhering to the strictest of safety standards."

That's a general promise -- vowing to fight to make sure drilling doesn't hurt beaches and that we have sound policies in place related to drilling.

In January 2011 after he took office, Gov. Scott met with former senator and former Gov. Bob Graham, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as co-chairman of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling. They met for 35 minutes Jan. 14 to discuss the commission's report and for that effort we gave Scott an In the Works on his promise.

What has he done since then? We found little in news reports:

* In June, Mary Anne Carter, Scott's policy chief at the time, said Scott's new special advisor on energy policy, Mary Bane, would create by the end of summer a proposed state energy policy that would address offshore oil drilling and other topics. But that policy is still in the works, according to the Governor's Office. We will borrow what Scott spokeswoman Jackie Schutz told us in December about a promise to lower electricity costs: "Gov. Scott feels a comprehensive energy policy for Florida is something that is needed for the state. Gov. Scott looks forward to working with the Legislature and the Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services to develop such a plan."

* In an Oct. 16, 2011, interview with the Naples Daily News in response to a question about drilling and Cuba, Scott said: "I met with the Coast Guard; they have plans and you know you just hope that they have ... that they've put in all safeguards they need and it doesn't happen. And then you hope that ... you know, because it all would come up the Gulf Stream, that this gets pushed out. And if not, that's all our beaches up there. But on the other issue ... on just pure ... on whether we should be doing offshore drilling or not, what I said all along is that we shouldn't do it unless we are very comfortable that we can do it fairly - I mean safely - because look at what happened last year with the BP oil spill and the devastating impact it had on the entire state. And didn't really get oil; hardly any oil on our beaches, but it was devastating to the economy up there and it appears it impacted the whole state's economy."

* Scott set off a firestorm from environmentalists when he made comments about drilling in the Everglades in September. Some thought he advocated for an expansion of drilling there, but Scott's office said he did not. Regardless, his comments don't provide much insight into any efforts he has taken related to offshore drilling since the Everglades aren't exactly offshore.

We reached out to a few other people -- Graham, environmentalists and the executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council -- to ask about what steps if any Scott or his administration have taken related to his oil drilling promise.

Graham said the state of Florida could encourage members of Congress to adopt recommendations -- made by Graham's commission and federal agencies -- to enhance safety.

"Much of that would not be by public acts -- more by picking up the phone and calling key members of Congress, urging them to adopt policies that would reduce the chances of Florida suffering another environmental or reputational or both assault as we did in the spring, summer and fall of 2010," Graham told PolitiFact Florida in an interview, saying he didn't know of Scott doing that.

David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council (his brother is Florida Republican Congressman John Mica), said Scott's staff has asked him questions about the progress of regulation and other events emanating from the spill and the future of drilling plans.

The U.S. Department of Interior released an updated oil and gas strategy, commonly referred to as the five-year plan, in December 2010. "Because the potential oil and gas resources in the Mid and South Atlantic are currently not well-known, Interior will move forward with an environmental analysis for potential seismic studies in the Mid and South Atlantic OCS to support conventional and renewable energy planning," states a Department of Interior press release. "No lease sales will be scheduled in the Atlantic in the 2007-2012 program or in the 2012-2017 program."

The state's Department of Environmental Protection has not submitted a comment on the five-year plan. (In June 2010 while Gov. Charlie Crist was still in office and Scott was campaigning, the DEP secretary at the time sent a letter toDOI saying that it was premature to evaluate new areas for future leasing until improvements are made in response to theDeepwater Horizon blowout.)

"We would have hoped the governor would ask for broader expansion of area and to date he hasn't done that," Mica said. Mica told us that some communication about drilling may not be official written communications -- Scott's staff have talked to federal officials about issues related to drilling.

"He has been very non-forthcoming on any energy-related policy," said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida. "It's like the disappearing energy policy."

"He hasn't done anything one way or another," said Susan Glickman, a consultant to Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

Scott's communications office told us in an e-mail Dec. 28: "It does not make sense to explore the expansion of domestic drilling if no specific proposal has been presented. If there is a desire to pursue such an expansion, we will explore the potential safety and environmental impacts."

It's clear Scott is keeping tabs on drilling. But we were unable to find evidence of any action or advocacy on his part to ensure future drilling doesn't hurt the beaches and is done in an environmentally sound and safe way. His energy adviser didn't create the report that his administration said would be done by the end of summer 2011. For now we rate this promise Stalled.

Sources:

Miami Herald, "Scott retreats from hint of new oil drilling in the Everglades,"Sept. 6, 2011


Miami Herald's Naked Politics blog, "Scott to weigh in on energy policy with less conservation, more renewables,"June 23, 2011

Naples Daily News, "Daily newsmakers with Jeff Lytle: Gov. Rick Scott talks to the Daily News,"Oct. 16, 2011

Scripps Howard News Service, "Oil drilling in Cuban waters stirs unease in Florida,"Nov. 8, 2011

PolitiFact, "Gov. Rick Scott advocates lower energy costs for businesses,"Dec. 20, 2011

Florida Senate, SB 2156: Governmental Reorganization, accessed Dec. 16, 2011

Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, Office of Energy, accessed Dec. 16, 2011

U.S. Department of Interior, "Salazar announces revised OCS leasing program,"Dec. 1, 2010

Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Letter from DEP Secretary Michael Sole to the Department of Interior, June 24, 2010

Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Letter to Minerals Management Service, Feb. 18, 2011

Gov. Rick Scott's communications office, Responses to PolitiFact's questions about the Scott-O-Meter, Dec. 28, 2011

Interview, Adam Fetcher, spokesman for the U.S. Department of Interior, Dec. 12, 2011

Interview, David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, Dec. 12, 2011

Interview, Eric Draper, executive director of Florida Audubon, Dec. 12, 2011

Interview, Susan Glickman, consultant to Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Dec. 12, 2011

Interview, former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, Dec. 12, 2011

Scott meets with Graham about oil spill report

Less than two weeks after Gov. Rick Scott took office, he met with former senator and former Gov. Bob Graham, who was appointed by President Barack Obama to serve as co-chairman of the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Drilling.

Graham is a long-time opponent of drilling off Florida's coast, and Scott was more open-minded about it during his campaign. The two men met for 35 minutes on Jan. 14, 2011, to discuss the commission's report on the April 20, 2010, Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

As the oil gushed through the summer of 2010, Scott had stated on his campaign website:

"Rick will fight to ensure than any future offshore drilling does not negatively impact Florida's beaches. As we explore the expansion of domestic drilling in the U.S., we must ensure that we have sound policies in place that ensure the companies drilling are doing so in an environmentally sound way and adhering to the strictest of safety standards."

That's not a very detailed promise -- he vowed only to fight to make sure future offshore drilling doesn't hurt Florida's beaches. The second part of his promise is similarly vague -- politicians, bureaucrats, environmentalists and marine businesses may not agree about what constitutes "sound policies" to ensure environmentally safe drilling.

Here's what Naked Politics, a blog of the Miami Herald, said about their meeting:

"He (Scott) gave us some homework assignments, such as seeing if we could facilitate some of the financial transactions that are coming out of this matter," Graham said, after commending Scott for his knowledge of the issue. "I gave him some assignments relative to being the voice for the state of Florida, which was the most economically affected by this spill and therefore has the greatest interest in not having a repetition."

Scott also was quoted on the blog: "We're going to look over this. As you know, both of us care about this great state and we don't want any damage, either environmental or economic damage to happen any more. We want to make sure we are also treated fairly. One of the things we also talked about was how we need to make sure the great state of Florida was treated in this spill but most importantly to make sure this never happens again."

The blog continued quoting Scott:

"Neither of us wants any drilling unless we are very comfortable it's going to be safe. We can't afford the environmental damage or the economic damage to our state. So what I've said all along, and I think Gov. Graham also believes, we've got to be very cautious. One of the things about this report is making sure we know what the safeguards are."

We sent e-mails and made phone calls to Scott's press office to ask if Scott had taken any other steps toward his promise but we received no response. We also posed the same question to Dee Ann Miller, a spokesperson at the Florida Department of Environmental Protection; she told us to contact Scott's press office.

Holding a meeting to discuss a report is only a baby step toward Scott's promise of protecting Florida's beaches -- it would be hard to imagine a new governor who wouldn't meet with a former governor to discuss such an important report.

Scott will have to delve much deeper if he wants to achieve his promise, but he has taken the initial step to show it's on his radar, that he intends to review the report, and to restate his position on environmental safety. So for now, we rate his promise In the Works.

Sources:

Naked Politics, Miami Herald politics blog, "Graham urges Scott to 'keep open mind' about drilling off Florida," Jan. 14, 2011