Trump expands ban on new offshore drilling sites in Atlantic

President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference on the North Portico of the White House, Monday, Sept. 7, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump expanded a ban on new offshore drilling Tuesday, an election-year reversal likely to appeal to voters in Florida and other coastal states. Two years ago, Trump had taken steps to vastly expand offshore drilling from coast to coast.

“This protects your beautiful gulf and your beautiful ocean, and it will for a long time to come,” Trump said as he announced the expanded drilling ban during an appearance at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse.

The president signed a memorandum instructing the interior secretary to prohibit drilling in the waters off both Florida coasts, and off the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina for a period of 10 years — from July 1, 2022, to June 20, 2032.

The existing moratorium covers the Gulf of Mexico, and Trump said the new one would also cover the Atlantic coast — a significant political concern in coastal states like Florida.

Trump used the event to portray himself as an environmental steward and contrast his record against that of Democrat Joe Biden. But the Trump administration has overturned or weakened numerous regulations meant to protect air and water quality and lands essential for imperiled species.

The trip comes as Trump steps up his travel to battleground states eight week before the election. From Florida, he headed for a campaign rally in North Carolina, another must-win for his reelection, before returning to the White House late Tuesday.

Trump used the North Carolina stop to campaign against the state's restrictive coronavirus guidelines, as he openly flouted the 50-person cap on outdoor events with a rally of thousands of supporters standing shoulder-to-shoulder on an airport tarmac.

"Your state should be open,” Trump said, baselessly claiming that Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper and others were trying to hamstring their economies with restrictions to hurt his reelection. “It’s a shame what’s going on, and I’ll tell you what, on Nov. 4, every one of those states will be open. They’re doing it for political reasons.”