The state of Florida will not be forced to participate in the Trump Administration’s newly-announced plan to open nearly all US waters to offshore drilling.
Florida was exempted Tuesday following a meeting between Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Florida Governor Rick Scott (R), a Trump ally, who insisted that oil rigs would threaten Florida’s tourism industry. Zinke said Scott was “straightforward” and “easy to work for.”
Other states immediately demanded the same treatment.
“We cannot afford to take a chance with the beauty, the majesty, and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline,” said South Carolina Governor Henry McMaster (R).
“Rhode Island’s coastline is an economic driver that supports good-paying jobs,” complained Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI). “And my constituents don’t want offshore drilling.”
“Is it because the governor of Florida is a Republican?” asked Virginia Senator Tim Kaine. “Are they putting Florida off-limits because President Trump has a vacation property – Mar-a-Lago – on the Atlantic coast of Florida?”
In response to the pushback, Zinke said he will “no doubt talk to every governor,” adding the process could take “at least a year with public comment.”
The argument on offshore drilling could further harm Republicans’ chances of holding off the Dems later this year, as some of the most competitive gubernatorial races will take place in coastal states that oppose the drilling order.
Florida Senator Bill Nelson (D) believes the move is a “political stunt” aimed to help Rick Scott, whom Trump has repeatedly urged to run for Congress.
“Senator Nelson and anyone else who opposes oil drilling off Florida’s coast should be happy that the governor was able to secure this commitment,” said President Trump. “This isn’t about politics. This is good policy for Florida.”
In addition to widespread and bipartisan outrage, environmental lawyers have warned that Trump’s oil drilling plan could run into legal challenges if he doesn’t treat all coastal states the same.
The oil drilling expansion, announced last week, opens more than 1 billion acres of US coastal waters to new offshore oil and gas drilling. It is a major shift from the previous administration, which blocked drilling on 94% of the outer continental shelf.
Alaska and Maine are the only coastal states in which governors supported the expansion.