OR governor says Zinke considering exempting state from offshore drilling plan

OR governor says Zinke considering exempting state from offshore drilling plan

Governor-elect Ralph Northam has followed up a letter by Governor-until-Saturday Terry McAuliffe urging U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to keep Virginia under an offshore drilling moratorium.

Now governors and lawmakers from Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, New York, New Jersey, California, Oregon, Washington and other states are asking why only Florida is being exempted.

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke had announced late Tuesday that he was removing Florida state waters from the proposed offshore drilling plan at the request of Governor Rick Scott, who argued that drilling poses a threat to Florida's tourism.

Nelson's letter followed the mid-week announcement from Zinke that Florida was removed from the plan from President Donald Trump to open almost all of the USA territorial waters to drilling in a five-year plan set to begin in2019. The plan follows Trump's executive order in April encouraging more drilling rights in federal waters, part of the administration's strategy to help the US achieve "energy dominance" in the global market. Then there is the price of oil in a few years' time to consider, as well as the fact that companies in the US are increasingly earmarking investments into onshore shale at the expense of conventional offshore.

Some analysts see the Florida case as politically motivated, but whatever the reasons, the governors of Oregon, Washington, New York, Virginia, and nearly all others except for Alaska and ME, demanded that their states be exempt, too.

But Secretary Zinke's decision to take Florida off the table "should have his lawyers cringing", Hayes said.

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"By proposing to open up almost the entire shelf for potential oil and gas exploration, the United States can advance the goal of moving from aspiring for energy independence to attaining energy dominance", Vincent DeVito, Counselor for Energy Policy at Interior, said.

"This proposal mirrors past proposals that have run into a buzzsaw of state opposition", David Hayes, who was the Interior Department's deputy secretary and COO during periods of the Clinton and Obama administrations, told Inside Climate News, commenting on the initial draft plan proposal.

Interior proposes to make more than 90 percent of the total outer shelf acreage and more than 98 percent of undiscovered, technically recoverable oil and gas resources in federal offshore areas available to consider for exploration and development.

"In one Twitter post, Zinke wrote that ". "We shouldn't be playing politics with the future of Florida".

If the Florida decision had been the result of a thoughtful process that ended in a report explaining how Florida's coast is somehow more precious than every other stretch of coast the Trump administration has slated to open, it would have at least appeared less capricious.

This sparks an even deeper environmental debate on the safety of offshore drilling.

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