Offshore drilling for all US coasts ok’d by Trump last week

Reuters reports that governors and other officials from a number of US coastal states are pressuring the Trump administration to exempt their waters from an expanded offshore drilling plan soon after Florida’s request to opt out was granted by the Interior Department.

Last week, President Trump announced his plan to open up all US coasts to oil drillers in the coming five years.

Only Alaska and Maine have voiced support for the proposal.

On Tuesday, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced he will remove Florida state waters from the proposed drilling plan because of a request from Governor Rick Scott, who argued offshore drilling could harm the state’s tourism industry.  Zinke noted in his announcement that Scott was a “straightforward leader that can be trusted”.

Backlash from the remaining coastal states could hamper Trump’s efforts to expand US offshore oil and gas production.

On Tuesday, governors of Delaware, North Carolina and South Carolina said they were looking to meet with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.  The governors say that, along with Florida, coastal drilling would pose a significant risk to tourism in their states.

“Tourism and recreation along the Delaware coastline account for billions in economic activity each year, and support tens of thousands of jobs,” Delaware’s Governor John Carney, a Democrat, Tweeted on Wednesday morning.

Other state representatives replied with angry Tweets to the proposal.

“New York doesn’t want drilling off our coast either. Where do we sign up for a waiver @SecretaryZinke?” asked New York Governor Andrew Cuomo in a Tweet.

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper Tweeted on Tuesday “Not Off Our Coast”.  A Reuters source says the governor is trying to arrange a meeting with Zinke.

On Wednesday, South Carolina’s Governor Henry McMaster issued a statement asking for a meeting with Zinke to protect “the majesty and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline.”

Sierra Weaver, a lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center, told Reuters that Zinke’s announcement to exclude Florida from the plan was a breach of protocol.  She says the move will put the Interior Department on shaky legal ground if other states are not treated by the secretary in the same way.

“It seems incredibly hard to justify or explain that this is anything other than arbitrary or capricious,” said Weaver.

Former deputy chief of staff under President Obama’s Interior Department Matt Lee-Ashley says Zinke’s action could undermine his five-year offshore drilling plan.

“Offshore drilling decisions in the United States are, by law, supposed to be guided by science, public input, and a careful balancing of environmental and energy needs,” he told Reuters.

Reuters reports an Interior Department spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the requests.

Reuters file photo by Steve Nesius.