Shana Kinsey
Outer Continental Shelf Program
Florida Department of Environmental Protection
3900 Commonwealth Boulevard, MS 235
Tallahassee, Florida, 32399-3000

RE: FL202304259783C / Opposition to offshore drilling Lease Sale 261

Dear Ms. Kinsey,

We, the undersigned Florida organizations, are united against the expansion of offshore oil and
gas leasing off Florida’s coast, or anywhere in the Gulf of Mexico. We write to urge that the State
of Florida express to the U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) its strong
opposition to the expansion of dirty and dangerous offshore drilling and BOEM’s proposed Gulf
of Mexico Region-wide Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Lease Sale 261 (LS 261).
While LS 261 was mandated to occur pursuant to the Inflation Reduction Act, it is critical for
BOEM to understand Florida’s concerns and for BOEM to finalize the 2023–2028 National OCS
Oil and Gas Leasing Program without new offshore oil and gas lease sales. Offshore drilling and
spilling in the Gulf of Mexico threatens Florida’s marine ecosystems, wildlife, coastal
communities, and vital recreation and tourism industries. Floridians understand firsthand the
damage that catastrophic oil spills cause, and the State of Florida’s voice must be heard on this

On March 15, 2023, in accordance with the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 (IRA), BOEM
announced the availability of the Proposed Notice of Sale (NOS) for Lease Sale 261. BOEM
states, the Interior Secretary, “pursuant to section 19 of the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act,
provides governors of affected states and the executive of any affected local government the
opportunity to review and comment on the Proposed NOS. The Proposed NOS describes the
proposed size, timing, and location of the sale, including lease stipulations, terms and
conditions, minimum bids, royalty rates, and rental rates.” Given Florida’s position as a
significantly impacted state, Governor DeSantis has an important opportunity to comment on
this lease sale and defend Florida from the threat of even more offshore drilling.

Florida is home to almost 8,500 miles of coastline, and an ocean recreation and tourism
economy that generates roughly $73.9 billion to our economy each year. These industries
depend on a clean coastal environment to support over one million jobs across the state,
including over 362,000 in the Gulf of Mexico region. Our state’s way of life utterly depends upon
clean beaches and waters, iconic wildlife, and scenic viewsheds—all of which would be
compromised by the expansion of offshore drilling and increased spill risk. Another major oil
spill would irreparably harm our ocean, coasts, and all who call it home. We felt this truth most
acutely during the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon disaster and its aftermath. Federally listed
endangered species like sea turtles and whales, already racing toward extinction, were lost in a
mass mortality event. Larval fish and invertebrates, the foundation of life in the Gulf, saw losses
in the millions. Every rung of the marine food chain saw significant and harmful impacts that
continue to affect the Gulf ecosystem more than a decade later. And we must always remember
that 11 workers on the Deepwater Horizon were killed in the initial explosion, while many others
in coastal communities were sickened as a result of exposure to toxic oil. Simply put, new
offshore drilling will damage the people and the public resources on which Florida depends by
generating harmful impacts through every phase of the drilling process.

Of urgent concern to the health of Florida’s coastal communities, oil and gas development
disproportionately impacts lower-income and communities of color who, too often, bear the
brunt of fossil fuel operations. In the Gulf of Mexico, the oil industry has contributed to the
destruction of coastal wetlands, leaving communities more vulnerable to flooding and extreme
weather events. Meanwhile, onshore infrastructure associated with offshore leasing pollutes
frontline communities and damages public health. To date, more than 400 municipalities, 2,500
elected officials, 55,000 businesses and 500,000 fishing families across the United States,
including Florida, have formally opposed new offshore oil and gas development in recognition of
the grave threat it poses to public resources, communities and economies. The widespread
opposition to more drilling off Florida’s coast is bipartisan and reflected throughout the state.

Time and again, Floridians have made their views on offshore drilling loud and clear to
Washington. In November 2018, over 68 percent of us voted to ban offshore oil and gas
exploration and drilling in our state waters—enshrining that position into the Florida
Constitution. In January 2019, Governor DeSantis issued Executive Order 19-12, directing the
Florida Department of Environmental Protection to “[t]ake necessary actions to adamantly
oppose all off-shore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida….” And we know that
Governor DeSantis was directly involved in discussions that led to President Trump’s September
2020 decision to issue an executive order extending, for ten years, the existing moratorium on
offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf, east of the Military Mission Line, while at the same time
extending it to the South Atlantic coast of Florida, Georgia, and South Carolina.

It is time for Florida’s voice to be heard again. We urge the State of Florida to make clear its
strong opposition to Lease Sale 261 during this comment period and underscore that BOEM can
still finalize a five-year plan without new lease sales. Absent congressional action to reverse the
IRA provisions requiring oil and gas lease sales, we understand that BOEM is directed to hold
the lease sale. Nevertheless, we are disappointed that BOEM has elected to analyze alternatives
for new offshore oil and gas development that go beyond the requirements of the Inflation
Reduction Act by considering additional acreage for development. We urge the State of Florida
to make clear that BOEM must select a final alternative that will limit impacts to the coastal
environment and communities in the Gulf of Mexico. This includes approving only the minimum
amount of geographic area for new oil and gas leasing required under federal law and upholding
the President’s commitment to no new oil and gas leases in the next five year plan.

Floridians are counting on Governor DeSantis to make clear the state’s opposition to new oil
and gas leases at every opportunity because drilling and spilling is incompatible with Florida’s
coastal economy. In September, BOEM is slated to publish its final 2023-2028 National OCS
Program which should prevent new leases from threatening Florida. Now is the time for the
State to speak up on behalf of all Floridians who oppose new oil and gas leases and the threats
they pose to Florida’s communities, economies and ecosystems.

We appreciate the opportunity to provide our comments to you today on behalf of Florida’s
environment, coastal communities, and economy and respectfully request that you share a copy
of your correspondence with BOEM in regard to LS 261.


Debris Free Oceans
Maddie Kaufman, MSc.
Program and Outreach Director

Florida Oceanographic Society
Mark Perry
Executive Director and CEO

Healthy Gulf
Christian Wagley
Coastal Organizer

Last Stand
Ann Olsen

Hunter Miller
Field Campaigns Manager

Surfrider Foundation
Emma Haydocy
Florida Policy Manager

Tropical Audubon Society
Lauren Jonaitis
Senior Conservation Director