Zinke hears West Coast governors, might reconsider offshore oil drilling

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A group of U.S. Senators representing coastal states is telling the Trump Administration that they don't want oil and gas drilling off their coasts, and are demanding the same respect for their states that was recently given to Florida, which was granted a special exemption by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Hockaday said Zinke agreed with concerns about the economic risks that offshore drilling could bring to OR, and committed to work with Brown and visit the state as part of a process to consider exempting OR from the offshore drilling plan.

Brown asked for the same consideration for the Oregon Coast as was given Florida, which was exempted from the offshore drilling plan after the Republican governor there complained.

If the proposed plan is approved, it will be in effect from 2019 to 2024, and will replace the current program, which was set to run through 2022.

Inslee, a Democrat and harsh critic of the Trump administration, is one of a host of politicians from coastal states opposed to drilling who hope Zinke can be persuaded to further restrict the offshore drilling. Then there is the price of oil in a few years' time to consider, as well as the fact that companies in the US are increasingly earmarking investments into onshore shale at the expense of conventional offshore.

But Secretary Zinke's decision to take Florida off the table "should have his lawyers cringing", Hayes said.

Some analysts see the Florida case as politically motivated, but whatever the reasons, the governors of Oregon, Washington, New York, Virginia, and nearly all others except for Alaska and ME, demanded that their states be exempt, too.

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The governors of Delaware, North Carolina, and SC on Tuesday were seeking meetings with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to press their case that drilling would pose significant risks to coastal tourism, while other state representatives issued sharply-worded Tweets.

Inslee's office said the Interior Department will hold a public meeting in Tacoma on February 5 to take comments regarding the offshore drilling proposal. "We shouldn't be playing politics with the future of Florida".

Providing all of our states with the same exemption from risky offshore oil and gas drilling would ensure that vital industries from tourism to recreation to fishing are not needlessly placed in harm's way.

South Carolina's Republican Governor Henry McMaster on Wednesday morning issued a statement also asking for a meeting with Zinke to protect "the majesty and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline".

The draft drilling proposal was submitted last week.

"The entire process usually takes two or three years", Hayes told Inside Climate News.

This sparks an even deeper environmental debate on the safety of offshore drilling.