Governors along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts are opposing the Trump administration’s proposal to open almost all U.S. waters to oil and natural gas drilling.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Thursday a draft proposal that would allow offshore drilling for crude oil and natural gas on the Atlantic Coast and in the Arctic, reversing the Obama’s administration’s block in those areas. It also permits drilling along the Pacific Coast as well as more possibilities in the Gulf of Mexico. Under the plan, spanning the years 2019 to 2024, more than 90 percent of the total acres on the Outer Continental Shelf would be made available for leasing.
Zinke said the Interior Department has identified 47 potential lease sales, including seven in the Pacific and nine off the Atlantic coast. That would mark a dramatic shift in policy, not just from the Obama era. The last offshore lease sale for the East Coast was in 1983 and for the West Coast in 1984.
Florida Gov. Rick Scott, a Republican and ally of President Trump, quickly said no thanks to Zinke’s plan, citing drilling as a threat to the state’s tourism industry.
“I have already asked to immediately meet with Secretary Zinke to discuss the concerns I have with this plan and the crucial need to remove Florida from consideration,” Scott said. “My top priority is to ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected.”
Zinke emphasized his proposal is not final and is subject to a 60-day public comment period, during which he said he would consult with state leaders and other stakeholders.
“This is the beginning,” Zinke said. “We are saying, this is what’s available. At the end of the day, we will listen to the voices of communities and all stakeholders.”
Other governors who are opposing offshore drilling on their coasts include the leaders of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon, and Washington.
“Offshore drilling represents a critical threat to our coastal economy,” said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat. “Protecting North Carolina families and businesses is my top priority, and we will pursue every option to prevent oil drilling near North Carolina’s beaches, coastal communities and fishing waters.”
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, California Gov. Jerry Brown and Oregon Gov. Kate Brown issued a joint statement Thursday opposing Zinke's plan.
“This political decision to open the magnificent and beautiful Pacific Coast waters to oil and gas drilling flies in the face of decades of strong opposition on the part of Washington, Oregon and California – from Republicans and Democrats alike,” the governors said.
Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has previously said he is “not in favor of offshore drilling.”
New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a Republican and Trump ally, in August sent a letter to the Interior Department saying he “strongly opposes any waters off our coastline being considered for inclusion in this leasing program,” citing the state’s $44 billion beach tourism industry.
Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, is the only Atlantic or Pacific governor who has said he wants offshore drilling.