BAY COUNTY, Fla. (WMBB) — A political hopeful is sharing her thoughts on the Department of Interior’s proposed five-year program for offshore oil and gas leasing.

The program is in the middle of a three-step process to determine how many offshore oil and gas leases there should be over the next five years.

District 2 State Senate Candidate, Dr. Carolynn Zonia, said she wants to protect our military bases from any potential offshore oil and gas lease sales.

“Following reapportionment this year, District 2 now includes four military installations,” Zonia said. “The Air Force bases at Tyndall, Eglin, and Hurlburt as well as Naval Support Activity Panama City. It’s vitally important that we protect this area.”

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management is currently taking public comment on the United States Department of Interior’s proposed five-year plan for new leases.

The program could include anywhere from zero to 11 leases. Zonia said the Gulf waters are too much of an asset to our military.

“It is the only test range in the continental United States large enough to accommodate a full range test flight from Eglin Air Force Base to Key West of hypersonic missile components,” Zonia said.

She said no other area offers the Department of Defense a comparable combination of air space, water space and existing infrastructure to support military activities.

“This activity will jeopardize the military’s ability to test advanced weapons systems and reduce Florida’s appeal to reduce, retain, attract military installations, missions, trainings and defense contractors,” Zonia said.

Current State Representative and State Senate candidate, Jay Trumbull, also opposes new offshore leases.

In a statement, Trumbull said, “While I appreciate Dr. Zonia’s press conference, I’m afraid she is many years late to this issue.  In 2018, as Chair of the Florida Defense Support Task Force, we took steps to protect the Gulf test range and then again in 2019, we proactively called for the indefinite extension of the restriction on oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.  I was proud to support all of these measures and will always defend this community and our coastline, which serves as both a national security priority and economic driver for our state and local community.”

The public comment portion on the Interior Department’s plan will close on Thursday. For a link to submit your own comment, click here.