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Florida voters approve offshore drilling ban

Washington — Florida voters on Tuesday approved an amendment to prohibit drilling, either for exploration or extraction, for oil or natural gas in state waters, according to unofficial results from the state's Division of Elections.

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Florida's Amendment 9, which appeared to pass with more than 68% of the vote, is a state constitutional amendment which required a 60% supermajority vote for approval.

The amendment prohibits drilling in all state waters along Florida's shoreline, which includes submerged lands 10.36 statutory miles off Florida's west coast and 3 nautical miles off the east coast. The amendment will not impact the transportation of oil, refined products or LNG through state waters by pipeline or ship, nor possible future drilling in federal waters. The amendment will have no immediate impact on supply since no drilling currently takes place in state waters, but it does prohibit future development.

Tuesday's vote comes as the Trump administration works to finalize an offshore oil and gas lease sale plan, which is expected to include sales in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Early this year, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke told Governor Rick Scott that Florida waters will be excluded from the final plan, but Zinke has declined to offer specifics and has said that a final decision has yet to be made. The federal offshore plan became an issue in the race for a US Senate seat between Scott and Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat. Nelson has criticized Scott for not getting federal waters offshore Florida explicitly removed from future offshore leasing plans. Nelson and Scott were within a percentage point of each other late Tuesday with more than 90% of precincts reporting, according to the state agency.

Amendment 9 also included a possible ban on electronic cigarettes and other vapor-generating devices in certain workplaces. The ballot measure had been challenged in Florida Supreme Court on the argument that the offshore drilling and vaping issues are unrelated. -- Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

-- Meghan Gordon, meghan.gordon@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Christopher Newkumet, newsdesk@spglobal.com