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Trump announces extension of oil and gas moratorium in eastern Gulf of Mexico

President Donald J. Trump walks from the White House to deliver remarks at the Rolling Back Regulations to Help All Americans event Thursday, July 16, 2020, on the South Lawn of the White House. (Official White House Photo by Delano Scott)

President Donald Trump on Tuesday signed an executive order extending for 10 years — until 2032 — a moratorium on expansion of oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, site of a massive military test range and a vital part of the state’s tourism economy.

The executive order, directing the U.S. Department of the Interior not to issue any oil and gas leases in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, could, however, be rescinded at any point during that time.

Nonetheless, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., whose Northwest Florida congressional district included Eglin Air Force Base, which oversees the 120,000-square-mile Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range, was taking credit TueMonday for a win in his efforts to support and protect the test range.

“This is my greatest achievement as Northwest Florida’s congressman,” said Gaetz, a staunch ally of the president, of the executive order. Gaetz said he had pressed the case for the moratorium with the president, in part by relying on the long string of local government resolutions across his district expressing support for the test range and local tourism and opposition to the expansion of oil and gas exploration.

Trump’s signing of the executive order is, Gaetz said, “a home run day for us.”

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Asked whether Trump’s signing of the executive order might be a political move, with the presidential election now less than two months away, Gaetz said, “I don’t care if it’s politics, or if it’s pumpernickel bread.”

The latest NBC News/Marist polling in Florida has Trump tied with Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, but other current polling in the state has the former vice president with a 3-point lead in the race, according to the RealClearPolitics website.

The executive order, Gaetz said, “gives us comfort, but it also gives us predictability,” including further investments in the Gulf Test Range such as technology improvements, for which Gaetz has consistently worked in Congress.

The signing of the executive order comes a little more than a month after Trump, in somewhat cryptic comments to Spectrum News after stepping off Air Force One in Tampa, said he had already signed an order halting drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

“Well, we’re not gonna be drilling, and I’ve already put out that order — actually quite a while ago,” the president said at the time.

In addition to the eastern Gulf of Mexico, Trump’s moratorium also applies to the Atlantic coasts of Florida, South Carolina and Georgia.

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© 2020 Northwest Florida Daily News