The Biden administration has abandoned an effort to impose a speed limit in the Gulf of Mexico that was intended to protect an obscure pod of little-known whales.
Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott noted the administration’s shift in an email to constituents on Saturday.
Scott celebrated the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s decision to pull a plan that would have set a maximum 10-knot speed limit in the Gulf and prohibited sailing at night.
Scott and fellow Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio argued to President Joe Biden in a letter in June that the move would hurt the state’s commercial fishing and shipping industries and handcuff military training operations just off the Panhandle.
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“[Friday’s] decision by NOAA comes after months of fighting to protect Florida and America’s national security from more burdensome regulation in Washington,” Scott said in a statement. “This big win is a great step toward stopping Biden’s short-sighted rule impacting a huge portion of Florida’s Gulf Coast with ridiculous limitations on our military training in the area and threats of fines and prison time for Florida’s boaters and fishermen for going over 10 knots.”
“For months,” he continued, “I’ve been calling on NOAA to reject this proposed rule, which was not based upon scientific research substantiating the proposed restrictions, and find a better way to look after the Rice’s Whale. As part of that, I made sure that the Senate version of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) included an assessment of the proposed rule’s impact on military activities and any negative impacts on U.S. national security and military preparedness in the Gulf of Mexico.”
“While this news is great for Florida, the fight is not over,” Scott continued. “We cannot allow the Biden administration to continue putting Florida and our military readiness at risk, and I’ll use my position on the Senate Armed Services Committee to hold Biden accountable.”
As the Tampa Free Press has reported, Rubio and Scott were not the only Florida GOP lawmakers concerned about the effect of Biden’s quest on the Eglin Gulf Test and Training Range, which the U.S. Air Force uses to test the military’s most advanced capabilities, including hypersonic weapons.
The feds suspended training off Eglin Air Force Base near Pensacola because the Biden administration wanted to figure out how that affected 51 Rice’s Whales who live in the Gulf, the Free Press reported in March.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, a Fort Walton Beach Republican who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, complained about the effect the alleged protection of the whales was having on military readiness.
The Rice’s Whale was unknown until two years ago when genetic testing confirmed it was different from a species called Byrde’s Whale. Rice’s Whales are the only species of whale that naturally inhabit the waters of America.
The 51 known mammals live in an area off the coast of Florida called the DeSoto Canyon, which lies 60 miles offshore from the Florida-Alabama state line and is deep enough for them to hide from the noise of passing ships and oil rigs.
During a House Armed Services Committee hearing in March, Gaetz had said, “A serious nation would not impair live-fire testing … because we found 51 whales we didn’t know existed before 2021.”
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