Ryan Zinke's decision to appease GOP governor on offshore drilling leaves coastal Democrats fuming


WASHINGTON — Coastal Democrats from California to New York are blasting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for what they view as a political and arbitrary decision to take Florida waters “off the table” for future offshore oil drilling

Some wonder if the sudden reversal was nothing more than a stunt to help get Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) elected to the Senate in 2018, while California’s top prosecutor pointed out that tourism and beauty are not unique to the Republican-led Sunshine State.

“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,” California Attorney General Xavier Becerra tweeted, referencing Zinke’s own statement.

“If that’s your standard, we, too, should be removed from your list. Immediately,” he added."

The Trump administration released a sweeping new proposal last week to open nearly all U.S. waters, including huge swaths of the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, to oil exploration — a move that drew outrage from both Democrats and Republicans. 

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DORAL, FL - MARCH 28: Florida Governor Rick Scott interacts with people at Restaurant El Arepazo 2 as he holds a bill signing ceremony for legislation to prohibit all state agencies from doing business with any entity that benefits the Venezuelan regime on March 28, 2018 in Doral, Florida. Gov. Scott said recently that he will have a big announcement on April 9, with many speculating that he will launch a Senate bid to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson for the seat. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
PARKLAND, FL - FEBRUARY 14: Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks to the media as he visits Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School after a shooting at the school killed 17 people on February 14, 2018 in Parkland, Florida. Numerous law enforcement officials continue to investigate the scene. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
DORAL, FL - MARCH 28: Florida Governor Rick Scott arrives at Restaurant El Arepazo 2 to hold a bill signing ceremony for legislation to prohibit all state agencies from doing business with any entity that benefits the Venezuelan regime on March 28, 2018 in Doral, Florida. Gov. Scott said recently that he will have a big announcement on April 9, with many speculating that he will launch a Senate bid to challenge incumbent Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson for the seat. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
CORAL GABLES, FL - MARCH 10: Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks with the media before the Republican presidential debate on the campus of the University of Miami on March 10, 2016 in Coral Gables, Florida. The Republican candidates continue to campaign before the March 15th Florida primary. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Florida's Governor Rick Scott addresses the media as CNN prepares for the Republican Presidential Debate March 10, 2016 in Miami, Florida. / AFP / RHONA WISE (Photo credit should read RHONA WISE/AFP/Getty Images)
TELEMUNDO EVENTS -- Pictured: Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks during the groundbreaking ceremony for NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises' Global Headquarters on February 9, 2016 in Miami, Florida -- (Photo by: Ivan Apfel/Telemundo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
TELEMUNDO EVENTS -- Pictured: (l-r) David L. Cohen, Senior Executive Vice President and Chief Diversity Officer, Comcast Corporation and Florida Governor Rick Scott arrive at the groundbreaking ceremony for NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises' Global Headquarters on February 9, 2016 in Miami, Florida -- (Photo by: Ivan Apfel/Telemundo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JULY 13: Florida Governor Rick Scott stands with Crystal Faircloth as he visits the Marian Center which offers services for people with intellectual disabilities on July 13, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Governor held a bill signing ceremony at the center for Senate Bill 642, the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act as well as took the opportunity to highlight funding for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities included in the 2015-2016 state Budget. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JULY 13: Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks with Sisters, Sister Filomena Mastrangelo (L) Sister Fausta Rondena (C) and Sister Carla Valentini (R) as he visits the Marian Center which offers services for people with intellectual disabilities on July 13, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Governor held a bill signing ceremony at the center for Senate Bill 642, the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act as well as took the opportunity to highlight funding for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities included in the 2015-2016 state Budget. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI GARDENS, FL - JULY 13: Florida Governor Rick Scott as he visits the Marian Center which offers services for people with intellectual disabilities on July 13, 2015 in Miami Gardens, Florida. The Governor held a bill signing ceremony at the center for Senate Bill 642, the Florida Achieving a Better Life Experience (ABLE) Act as well as took the opportunity to highlight funding for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities included in the 2015-2016 state Budget. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - JULY 07: Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) arrives for a news conference and greeted by Aerospace CEO Pierre Pinsonnautt (L) and Abhishek Wakaskar (C) at Aerospace Precision. Governor Rick Scott take a tour of the facility to highlight job growth in Hollywood on Tuesday July 7, 2015 in Hollywood, Florida. (Photo by Johnny Louis/WireImage)
WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 06: Governor Rick Scott (R-FL) speaks to members of the media after a meeting with Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell May 6, 2015 in Washington, DC. Governor Scott met with Secretary Burwell to discuss his funding request for a Low Income Pool program which will be expire June 30. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
MIRAMAR, FL - JANUARY 23: Florida Governor Rick Scott tours the SeaLand shipping lines new Intra-Americas headquarters on January 23, 2015 in Miramar, Florida. Scott announced that Florida businesses added 11,500 private-sector jobs in December 2014 and since December 2010, Florida has added 728,500 private-sector jobs. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott (C), flanked by family members, greets supporters after his re-election victory in a deadlocked race against Democrat Charlie Crist, during an U.S. midterm elections night party in Bonita Springs, Florida, November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott celebrates his re-election in a deadlocked race against Democrat Charlie Crist during a U.S. midterm elections night party with supporters in Bonita Springs, Florida, November 4, 2014. REUTERS/Steve Nesius (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS ELECTIONS)
Florida Republican Gov. Rick Scott speaks at a ceremony opening new newsroom facilities for the Univision and Fusion television networks in Doral, Florida August 28, 2013. Spanish language behemoth Univision is ramping up its new English cable news network Fusion aimed at younger viewers, hiring hundreds of staffers and building a flashy newsroom as it prepares to enter the crowded field of cable news channels. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES - Tags: HEADSHOT MEDIA BUSINESS POLITICS)
Republican Florida Governor Rick Scott speaks at a meeting of the Latin Builders Association in Miami, Florida January 27, 2012. REUTERS/Joe Skipper (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)
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Zinke flew to Tallahassee on Tuesday to meet in person with Scott — a staunch Trump ally who pushed back against the administration’s offshore proposal even before an official announcement. 

In one Twitter post, Zinke wrote that “local voices matter.” And in a statement announcing his decision for Florida’s coastal waters, Zinke said: “President Trump has directed me to rebuild our offshore oil and gas program in a manner that supports our national energy policy and also takes into consideration the local and state voice. I support the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.” 

The move left Democratic governors wondering how that logic would impact their states.

“New York doesn’t want drilling off our coast either,” New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) wrote. “Where do we sign up for a waiver [Secretary Zinke]?”

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) also wondered if Zinke planned to listen to voices in her state. 

Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) suggested if Trump’s beloved Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida ― sometimes dubbed the “Winter White House” ―  might have factored into Zinke’s decision.  

For now, Zinke appears to have tuned out pleas from leaders in blue states. But his handling of the situation has already become fuel for potential legal challenges. 

“Taking #Florida off the table for offshore drilling but not #California violates the legal standard of arbitrary and capricious agency action,” Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), an attorney, tweeted. “California and other coastal states also rely on our beautiful coasts for tourism and our economy. I believe courts will strike this down.”

Scott — who continues to deny the science behind climate change and has long supported drilling in and around Florida — is expected to make a run for Senate this year, challenging Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), a longtime opponent of offshore drilling.

Nelson dismissed Zinke’s decision Tuesday as a “political stunt.” 

“I have spent my entire life fighting to keep oil rigs away from our coasts,” Nelson tweeted on Tuesday. “This is a political stunt orchestrated by the Trump administration to help Rick Scott who has wanted to drill off Florida’s coast his entire career. We shouldn’t be playing politics with the future of FL.”

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Virginia Gov.-elect Ralph Northam also protested the Trump administration’s exception for Florida but not other states. 


Walter Shaub, the former director of the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, did not mince words, accusing Zinke of making the United States a “banana republic.” 

  • This article originally appeared on HuffPost.
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