Overnight Energy & Environment

Overnight Energy: Zinke under fire for exempting Florida from drilling plan | Trump floats staying in Paris deal | NYC sues big oil over climate

Getty Images

ZINKE’S DRILLING MOVE HITS OPPOSITION: Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke is catching criticism from numerous corners over his decision late Tuesday to take Florida off the table for offshore drilling.

While Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) welcomed the quick action to protect waters near his state from drilling, officials elsewhere accused Zinke of political favoritism, and wondered if opponents in other states would get the same courtesy.

Scott is a close ally to the Trump administration, and is expected soon to announce his intent to run against Sen. Bill Nelson (D), a long-time drilling opponent. Florida’s coasts also host Trump’s “Winter White House,” Mar-a-Lago.


Zinke said last week he’d consider allowing drilling near all of the nation’s coasts.

California Attorney General Xavier Becerra (D) was one of the early opponents out of the gate Tuesday, saying that his state met the same standards Zinke used to exempt Florida.

“California is also ‘unique’ & our ‘coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.’ Our ‘local and state voice’ is firmly opposed to any and all offshore drilling,” he tweeted.

“We’d like a word in Virginia,” said Virginia Gov.-elect Ralph Northam (D).

The opposition was bipartisan.

Rep. Mark Sanford (R-S.C.) questioned whether the move was “self-serving” due to Mar-a-Lago.

“I mean, you can’t say ‘I don’t want to see an oil rig from Mar-a-Lago as I look out from the waters of Palm Beach, but it’s okay to look at an oil rig out from Hilton Head of Charleston, S.C.,’ ” he said on CNN.


Will it backfire?: Zinke’s move may have backfired and put the administration on shaky legal ground in its question for “American Energy Dominance.”

Opponents and legal experts said his announcement showed that he is not following the processes laid out in the law for offshore drilling planning, and that if the process appears “arbitrary,” federal courts are likely to strike it down when it is made final.

“That’s exactly the kind of thing that can get a program struck down, is a bunch of arbitrary decisions like this,” Livermore said.

Drilling plans, like other major policy decisions by agencies, can be challenged in court once they’re made final. The department’s moves would be judged by their adherence to the Administrative Procedure Act, including a standard that government actions cannot be “arbitrary and capricious.”

“There’s a whole statute that explains how you’re supposed to make these decisions, and because you feel like it, or you like the governor, is not one of the reasons,” Livermore said.

Interior Spokeswoman Heather Swift said Zinke would meet with any coastal governor who asks.

“The secretary has said since day one that he is interested in​ hearing​ the local voice,” she said.

“​Gov. Scott requested a meeting the day the plan was released. ​If ​other governors would like to request meetings with the secretary, they are absolutely welcome to do so.”

Read more here.


Oil industry also peeved: The oil industry is also criticizing Zinke, saying that his decision to remove Florida is premature.

Drillers are specifically concerned about the eastern Gulf of Mexico, which has been off-limits, but has long been a top target for companies that are already producing oil and natural gas elsewhere in the Gulf.

“This announcement is premature,” API President Jack Gerard said in a statement.

“The Gulf of Mexico is the backbone of our nation’s offshore energy production and restricting access to the Eastern Gulf puts hundreds of thousands of jobs at risk across the country and along the Gulf Coast, particularly in Florida, Alabama, Louisiana, Texas, and Mississippi,” he said.

“Not only that, but securing reliable sources of energy helps fuel other industries like tourism, especially in states like Florida that relies on more than 200 million barrels of gasoline and diesel each year to fuel its economy.”

The National Offshore Industries Association, which represents companies in numerous areas related to offshore drilling, also criticized Zinke’s move, calling it “disappointing and premature.”

“Removing areas offshore Florida this early in the planning process prematurely curtails dialogue and thorough study of the possibilities for future development of offshore resources that could provide additional energy and jobs for working Floridians,” Randall Luthi, the group’s president, said in a statement.

Read more here.


TRUMP: US COULD ‘CONCEIVABLY’ STAY IN PARIS: President Trump said Wednesday that he might reverse his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris agreement on climate change.

“I will say that the Paris agreement, as drawn and as we signed, was very unfair to the United States. It put great penalties on us. It made it very difficult for us to deal in terms of business. It took away a lot of our asset values,” he said of the pact that includes every other member of the United Nations.

Trump also said he has “no problem” with the agreement, “but I had a problem with the agreement that they signed, because as usual, they made a bad deal.”

“So we could conceivably go back in,” Trump said, without expanding on what would have to happen or change.

While Trump announced the exit in June, the accord does not allow nations to submit exit paperwork until November 2019, to be effective in November 2020.

When announcing the exit, Trump kept the door open to rejoining the pact “on terms that are fair to the United States, its businesses, its workers, its people, its taxpayers.”

Read more here.


NYC SUES OIL COMPANIES OVER CLIMATE CHANGE: New York City is suing five oil companies over climate change.

The city alleges the five major oil companies have played a role in global warming, and is seeking to recoup billions of dollars spent preparing for climate change.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced the action along with a plan to divest the city’s pension funds from fossil fuel companies.

“New York City is standing up for future generations by becoming the first major US city to divest our pension funds from fossil fuels,” de Blasio said in a statement. “At the same time, we’re bringing the fight against climate change straight to the fossil fuel companies that knew about its effects and intentionally misled the public to protect their profits.”

Exxon Mobil Corp. said in a statement that it welcomes actions that further debates about how to confront climate change and move the conversation forward.

“Lawsuits of this kind — filed by trial attorneys against an industry that provides products we all rely upon to power the economy and enable our domestic life — simply do not do that,” it said.

A spokesman for Shell said the issue of global warming is not one that should be handled in the courts.

The National Association of Manufacturers, which recently launched a project to fight back against what it sees as frivolous climate lawsuits, also slammed the action.

“This is part of a deep-rooted, politically-motivated campaign to undermine manufacturing in America, and we will continue our work to expose this coordinated effort,” Linda Kelley, the group’s general counsel, said in a statement.

Read more here.


ON TAP THURSDAY: Former Energy Secretary and former CEO of the Nuclear Threat Initiative Ernest Moniz will speak at a Center for Strategic and International Studies event on global security tensions.



A Pennsylvania woman was sentenced to more than four years for setting fires in Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park, the Jackson Hole News & Guide reports.

Michigan regulators set new limits on per- and polyfluoroalkyl concentrations in drinking water, the Detroit News reports.

California utility regulators are due to decide this week on the plan to close the state’s last nuclear plant, SFGate reports.



The Competitive Enterprise Institute’s Myron Ebell celebrates the Trump administration’s embrace of “Drill, Baby, Drill.”



Check Wednesday’s stories …

– Oil industry slams Zinke for closing Florida waters to offshore drilling

– Trump: US could ‘conceivably’ stay in Paris climate pact

– GOP lawmaker rips Trump, Zinke: ‘Self-serving’ to exempt Florida from drilling

– South Carolina governor calls on Trump admin to remove state from drilling plan

– Florida decision puts Trump drilling plan on shaky ground

– Christie wants Trump admin to exempt N.J. from offshore drilling

– Washington governor proposes new carbon tax

– New York City suing major oil companies over global warming

– Group details ‘systematic’ removal of climate content from federal websites


Tags Bill Nelson Donald Trump Ernest Moniz Mark Sanford Offshore drilling Ryan Zinke Xavier Becerra

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video