Zinke talks with more governors about offshore drilling plan
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has so far spoken with seven governors to hear their objections to his plan to open the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to offshore oil and natural gas drilling.
The calls were set up after Zinke’s surprise announcement late Tuesday that waters near Florida would be removed from the plan. That came after Zinke briefly met with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), a close Trump administration ally who is likely to run for Senate this year.
Nearly every other Atlantic and Pacific governor jumped on the Florida announcement to demand that they, too, be removed from consideration in the Interior Department’s plan for drilling rights lease sales between 2019 and 2024.
Interior said Friday that in addition to Scott, Zinke has already spoken with South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster (R), who wants his state out of the drilling consideration.
On Friday alone, Zinke spoke with five Democratic governors opposed to drilling: Rhode Island’s Gina Raimondo, California’s Jerry Brown, Washington’s Jay Inslee, Delaware’s John Carney and North Carolina’s Roy Cooper.
Zinke plans to talk to Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D), another opponent of the plan, later Friday, Interior said.
Coastal governors have argued in recent days that Interior has to remove them from drilling consideration if they object. The governors and legal experts say that the drilling plan could be overturned in court if Zinke doesn’t extend the standard he granted to Florida, which hosts President Trump’s coastal Mar-a-Lago resort.
“Creating a Five Year Program is a very open and public process, and Secretary Zinke looks forward to meeting with governors and other coastal representatives who want to discuss the draft program,” Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said.
Interior has scheduled 23 public meetings on the program and is accepting comments on www.regulations.gov through March 9, 2018.
“All comments will be considered in developing a proposed program document — the next step in the five-year program — that will be made available for public comment and review by governors of affected states and Congress before final decisions are published,” she said.
Interior is obligated by law to consult with governors, congressional delegations and coastal communities as it crafts its plan.
All Pacific and Atlantic governors have expressed outright opposition or concerns about drilling off their state’s shores, except Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R).