Less than a week after the Trump Administration proposed to open nearly the entire USA coast to oil and gas drilling, Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke backtracked and took Florida off the table for offshore oil and gas exploration.
Sierra Weaver, a lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Zinke's move was a breach of protocol that will put the Interior Department on shaky legal footing if the secretary doesn't treat other coastal states in the same way.
The state is also important economically, with a multibillion-dollar tourism business built on sunshine and miles and miles of white sandy beaches.
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Cynicism has always been a part of politics, but rarely are politicians so brazen and self-serving as President Donald Trump and his interior secretary, Ryan Zinke, have been over the past week.
Zinke announced plans last week to greatly expand offshore oil drilling from the Atlantic to the Arctic and Pacific oceans, including several possible drilling operations off Florida, where drilling is now blocked.
"This political decision to open the magnificent and lovely Pacific Coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Washington, Oregon and California - from Republicans and Democrats alike", they said in a joint statement. Both met at the Tallahassee International Airport on Tuesday. In addition to Florida, the states of Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, New Hampshire, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Connecticut, California, Oregon, and Washington have all opposed this plan for new leases off their coasts. "Local voice matters", he insisted. Soon thereafter, the Interior Secretary had a discussion with Florida's Governor and took the offshore drilling expansion off the table for federal waters off the coast of Florida without any public hearings or input, stating: "I support the governor's position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver".
We have long advocated for increased drilling off the country's coasts, as long as it is smartly regulated. "I don't believe it", Nelson said in a statement. "We hope we can work with you to protect our natural resources, our environment, and the livelihoods of coastal residents so that they remain for future generations".
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Zinke said last week that the drilling plan called for responsible development that would boost jobs and economic security while providing billions of dollars to fund conservation along USA coastlines.
The draft plan now under development would run from 2019 through 2024. Nineteen sales would be off Alaska, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, nine in the Atlantic and seven in the Pacific, including six off California.
It is still unclear how much industry interest there would be in offshore drilling in the area when there may be many other more promising areas to explore offshore or known reserves to develop onshore.
North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat in a state that went to Trump in the 2016 race, said he wanted to meet with the president himself to explain how offshore drilling would threaten the state economy.
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