Trump administration proposes new offshore drilling plan

After Interior Exempts Florida from Controversial Offshore Drilling Plan, Harris and 21 US Senators Call on Trump

Governor-elect Ralph Northam Thursday requested an exemption to the Trump administration's plan to allow offshore drilling in almost all of United States coastal waters.

The decision came just days after the Trump administration released to open almost all USA waters, including huge swaths of the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, to oil exploration.

While Florida Gov. Rick Scott voiced opposition soon after the plan's January 4 release, a letter submitted by the state Department of Environmental Protection a year ago did not oppose the drilling plan or ask for Florida to be exempted.

According to Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress and former deputy chief of staff in Obama's Interior Department, Zinke's Twitter announcement that Florida will be exempt undermines the process of the drafting of the final drilling plan.

By contrast, the governors of California, Oregon and Washington told Interior they "strongly oppose any new leasing" off their coasts and asked to be removed from the plan. Nelson was quick to dismiss Zinke's decision Tuesday as a "political stunt".

The Interior Department said earlier in the day that Zinke had set up calls with the governors of Rhode Island, Oregon, California, Washington, Delaware and North Carolina to get their input. "Secretary Zinke agreed with concerns about the economic risks that offshore drilling could bring to OR and committed to work with the governor". South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster has also requested that his state be withdrawn from the plan.

But taking Florida off the table sparked even more backlash from almost all other coastal states along the Pacific and the Atlantic, with governors and representatives demanding the states they represent be exempt, too.

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Interior's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has planned 23 public meetings in coastal states "to secure feedback directly from citizens (and) ensure all viewpoints are taken into consideration as the department moves forward", Swift said.

White House press secretary Sarah Sanders denied the administration gave special treatment to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, an ally of President Donald Trump who is considered a likely Senate candidate later this year.

In announcing the exemption for Florida on Tuesday, Zinke called Scott "a straightforward leader that can be trusted". "I support the governor's position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver".

In the statement on your decision to remove Florida, you indicated that President Trump had directed you to reestablish our country's offshore oil and gas leasing program in a way that "takes into consideration the local and state voice".

Governors and legal experts say that the drilling plan could be struck down if Zinke does not provide the same consideration to other states as he did to Florida. If it is safe off the coast of SC, why is it not safe in Florida.

Zinke's decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling leaves the door open for other governors opposed to offshore oil and gas development to seek a similar prohibition for their states.

If approved, the five-year plan would be in effect from 2019 to 2024.

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