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Amy Sherman
By Amy Sherman January 10, 2018

Gov. Rick Scott's Full Flop on oil drilling

Gov. Rick Scott met with a member of President Donald Trump’s administration and struck a deal to remove Florida from a list of states proposed for more offshore oil drilling.

"As a result of our interest in making sure that there's no drilling here, Florida will be taken off the table," Scott said Jan. 9th, after meeting with U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in Tallahassee.

Zinke highlighted Scott’s role in the deal.

"Florida is obviously unique," Zinke said. "For Floridians, we are not drilling off the coast of Florida, and clearly the governor has expressed that it's important."

Scott’s statement led to claims that Scott had flip-flopped on offshore oil drilling. We decided to measure whether Scott had shifted his position on our Flip-O-Meter.

Scott’s announcement came as the term-limited Republican governor is poised to potentially run against Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, an opponent of an expansion of drilling.

Scott’s spokespersons argued that Scott made no flip.

"Since 2010, Governor Scott has consistently said that we must ensure that Florida’s beaches are protected and has made it clear that protecting the environment is his top priority," Scott spokeswoman Kerri Wyland said.

We found that Scott clearly campaigned in 2010 on expanding oil drilling. Today, he opposes an expansion.

Scott favored drilling in 2010

PolitiFact Florida has tracked Scott’s stance on oil drilling since his first campaign in 2010. On his campaign website then, Scott called for more drilling offshore but said that the state’s beaches must be protected.

"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. ... Rick supports expansion of nuclear power, use of alternative fuels and off-shore drilling."

A Scott campaign spokeswoman told PolitiFact Florida in May 2010 that his campaign had initially posted his position before the Deepwater Horizon explosion in April and later updated it to add the phrase about the environment and safety standards.

During that summer, Scott reiterated his call for safe offshore drilling when meeting with Panhandle fishermen. Scott said drilling wouldn’t happen in the "foreseeable future. ...We are not going to drill now. ...It's not safe. It doesn't make any sense."

Scott never took significant steps toward his promise to explore expansion of drilling in a safe, environmentally sound way. We rated his promise broken in 2013.

Trump’s plan to open up drilling

In April 2017, Trump signed an executive order that aimed to expand offshore drilling. Scott was initially mum. Days later, Scott told the Tampa Bay Times that he hadn’t seen the proposal and declined to comment.

The state Department of Environmental Protection sent an Aug. 17 letter to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management raising concerns about the effects of oil and gas activities on the environment, but did not expressly oppose the drilling proposal.

On Jan. 4, Zinke announced a proposal to open up more coastal areas in Florida, California and the Atlantic to drilling.

Scott expressed his voice quickly on Twitter Jan. 4, saying that he opposed drilling:

"Based on media reports, it is likely that the Department of the Interior will consider Florida as a potential state for offshore oil drilling – which is something I oppose in Florida. I have already asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration. My top priority is to ensure that Florida's natural resources are protected, which is why I proposed $1.7 billion for the environment in this year's budget."

Over the next few days, Scott had multiple meetings with Trump administration officials.

On Jan. 9, when asked what caused the Trump administration to change its position on Florida drilling, Zinke said, "The governor."

Scott praised the Trump administration for removing Florida from consideration.

Oil and gas exploration doesn’t seem to be entirely off the table, though. Zinke said seismic testing still would be allowed, but no new drilling. Susan Glickman, Florida Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, said the only reason to allow seismic testing is to find places to drill.

Our ruling

During his first campaign for governor in 2010, Scott called for drilling offshore. After the Deepwater Horizon explosion, he added language to his campaign website to state that he wanted drilling done in an "environmentally sound way and adhering to the strictest of safety standards."

During his first term, Scott took no meaningful steps to expand drilling.

But when Trump’s administration proposed an expansion of offshore drilling Jan. 4, Scott said he opposed the idea and sought a meeting with Zinke. That rejection sounds different from his stance when he first ran for governor in 2010 and he was open to drilling.

We give Scott a Full Flop.

Our Sources

U.S. Department of Interior press release, "Secretary Zinke Announces Plan For Unleashing America's Offshore Oil and Gas Potential," Jan. 4, 2018

Gov. Rick Scott, Tweet, Jan. 4, 2018

Gov. Rick Scott press release, "Gov. Scott Fought to Protect Florida’s Coastline,"Jan. 9, 2018

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, Tweet, Jan. 9, 2018

Federal Register, "Implementing an America-First Offshore Energy Strategy," April 28, 2017

CNN, Transcript of Gov. Rick Scott interview, Dec. 3, 2010

Huffington Post, "Florida Gov. Rick Scott Has Repeatedly Flip-Flopped On Offshore Oil Drilling," Jan. 9, 2018

Bloomberg, "Atlantic Governors Seek Continued Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Ban," Aug. 21, 2018

Politico, "Trump aims to open California, Florida, Atlantic waters for oil drilling," Jan. 4, 2018

Politico, "Trump delivers a Senate race sweetener to Scott," Jan. 9, 2018

AP, "Trump administration says no oil drilling off Florida coast," Jan. 10, 2018

Tampa Bay Times, "Drilling supporter Scott surveys oil-damaged coast," (Accessed in Nexis) July 27, 2010

Tampa Bay Times The Buzz blog, "Rick Scott, Marco Rubio avoid comment on Trump's oil drilling push," May 2, 2017

Tampa Bay Times, "Rick Scott and Trump administration strike deal: No drilling off Florida coast," Jan. 9, 2018

PolitiFact’s Scott-O-Meter, "Rick Scott's oil drilling talk has come up dry," Oct. 2, 2013

PolitiFact Florida, "While others waffled, Rick Scott stuck to his oil drilling script," Dec. 3, 2010

PolitiFact Florida, Alex Sink says Rick Scott supports oil drilling, May 18, 2010

PolitiFact Florida, "A misleading ad by NextGen Climate against Rick Scott," Aug. 14, 2014

PolitiFact, "Scott approved nuclear power plants, but not much focus on other alternatives," Sept. 4, 2014

PolitiFact Florida, "Trump wants to expand oil drilling despite Congress not adding safety rules, Senator says," April 21, 2017

Florida Department of Environmental Protection, Letter to Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Aug. 17, 2017

Interview, Susan Glickman, Florida Director of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy, Jan. 10, 2018

Interview, Kerri Wyland, Gov. Rick Scott spokeswoman, Jan. 10, 2018

Browse the Truth-O-Meter

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Gov. Rick Scott's Full Flop on oil drilling

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