Republican Group Wants to Restore Protection of Critical Military Region

A group of Republicans is seeking to reinstate protections for Florida’s Gulf Test Range in the Gulf of Mexico after they were removed as part of the Democrat-passed $749 billion Inflation Reduction Act.

Congress passed the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act in 2006 that prohibited oil and gas development and exploration east of the Military Mission Line in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico, which is one of the U.S. military’s most important testing and training areas.

In 2020 under the Trump administration, these protections were extended, withdrawing submerged lands of the test range from being considered for energy development or leasing. This ensured that the range would “continue to serve U.S. national security needs,” an Oct. 17 letter by the Republican members stated (pdf).

“Unfortunately, the Inflation Reduction Act stripped that protection and opens the door to offshore wind development in the Gulf Test Range. Energy development in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico would catastrophically jeopardize the Gulf Test Range, which is crucial to our readiness for a fight in the Indo-Pacific,” the letter states.

It cites a report from fiscal year 2018 required by the National Defense Authorization Act which states that the Eastern Gulf of Mexico is an “irreplaceable national asset.”

The letter was sent by Sens Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Rep. Mike Waltz (R-Fla.), and signed by 13 other Republican representatives.

The letter was addressed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.).

“We must reinstate the moratorium on energy leasing and development east of the Military Mission Line in the Gulf of Mexico. As such, we introduced legislation and will seek to include language to protect our military asset in this year’s National Defense Authorization Act,” the letter said.

Legislation

On Sept. 22, Rubio introduced S.4943, also known as “Preserving the Gulf Test Range to Ensure Military Readiness Act,” in the Senate.

The bill seeks to ensure that once the act is passed, the secretary of interior shall not lease, prelease, or allow any related activity for energy development in the Military Mission Line or any of the defined outer Continental Shelf areas in the region until June 30, 2032.

The outer Continental Shelf areas will include west of the Military Mission Line, the Straits of Florida Planning Area, and the South Atlantic Planning Area.

In a Sept. 22 press release, Waltz pointed out that the Gulf Test Range is used by the Department of Defense to test and develop weapons like hypersonic missiles.

“As our adversaries, like China, spend billions of dollars to modernize and build up their military capabilities, leasing water just off the coast of Florida for energy development would greatly hinder our country’s readiness and ability to deter military aggression,” Waltz said.

Green Energy Push

The Biden administration has been pushing to implement wind projects as part of its attempt to shift the country into adopting green energy.

In a July 20 remark, President Joe Biden said that the government had begun the process of developing wind power in the Gulf of Mexico for the first time.

“I’ve directed my administration to clear every federal hurdle and streamline federal permitting that brings these clean energy projects online right now and right away,” Biden said.

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Naveen Athrappully is a news reporter covering business and world events at The Epoch Times.

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