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Washington state threatens to sue over Zinke offshore drilling plan

Washington state threatens to sue over Zinke offshore drilling plan
© Greg Nash

Washington Attorney General Bob Ferguson (D) warned Interior Secretary Ryan ZinkeRyan Keith ZinkeGOP lawmakers: Obama admin ‘hastily’ wrote lead ammunition ban Ex-Interior chief ribs Zinke over ‘secretarial flag’ Trump, Pence to address CPAC this week MORE that he will sue the Trump administration if the state isn’t removed from a plan to expand offshore drilling.

Ferguson in a letter sent to Zinke on Monday demanded that Washington be exempt from the plan to expand oil and gas drilling off the U.S., including off the state’s coast.

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The attorney general argued that the plan would damage the state’s economy, including the fishing and shipping industries, and that it could hurt ecosystems on Washington’s coast.

“The proposal to open the Pacific Region Outer Continental Shelf to oil and gas leasing is unlawful, unsafe, and harmful to the economy and natural beauty of Washington's coastline. As Attorney General, my job is to enforce the law and protect the people, natural resources, and environment of my state, and I will use every tool at my disposal to do so,” Ferguson wrote.

He noted that Zinke had granted an exemption from the plan to Florida, and that the same reasoning the Interior head had used in that decision applied to Washington.

Zinke announced last month that Florida would be exempted from the drilling plan after meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), saying “its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”

“If, on the other hand, the Department of Interior seeks to put Washington's coastal communities at risk, my office will initiate litigation against the Department to protect our coast,” Ferguson wrote.

Lawmakers and officials from states on both coasts have called to also be exempt from the proposal to open nearly all of the U.S.'s coasts to drilling.