Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Wednesday he plans to meet with every governor whose state would be affected by his offshore drilling proposal, vowing the public engagement process would take at least a year.
Coastal governors who oppose offshore drilling are pressing Zinke for exemptions from his proposal, after he granted one to Florida Tuesday night upon meeting with Republican Gov. Rick Scott.
Some critics argue the interior secretary violated the law by taking Florida off the table in the early stages of the public comment process, without any public hearings.
Zinke told the Washington Post in an interview Wednesday that Scott was quick to voice his opposition to drilling off Florida’s coast.
Scott and almost the entire Florida congressional delegation opposed Zinke's drilling proposal, arguing that the risk of spills could harm the state's huge tourism economy.
“Quite frankly, Gov. Scott called me and [also] expressed in writing a desire to have a meeting,” Zinke said.
That meeting was the first “in what I believe will be a series of conversations” with other governors, Zinke added.
“I will no doubt talk to every governor. It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re Republican or Democrat. This is going to be a long process. This is going to be at least a year with public comment. We have to get it right, look at the geology, look at the science.”
Other governors who oppose offshore drilling on their coasts include the leaders of New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon, and Washington. While Maine Gov. Paul LePage, a Republican, supports drilling, both of the state’s senators, Susan Collins and Angus King, oppose it.
"New York doesn't want drilling off our coast either," New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat, said in a Twitter post Tuesday night. "Where do we sign up for a waiver?"
South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster, a Republican, said Wednesday he will ask Zinke for an exemption as well. "We cannot afford to take a chance with the beauty, the majesty and the economic value and vitality of our wonderful coastline," he said.
The governors of North Carolina, Oregon, Washington, and Delaware have made similar appeals to the Trump administration since it granted an exemption to Florida.
Additionally, the governors of New York, New Jersey, Maryland, California, and other states requested exclusion from the drilling plan last year, as the Interior Department drafted its plan.
Zinke had announced last week his plans to open almost all federal waters to oil and gas drilling.
Under the Interior Department's draft proposal for offshore drilling, spanning 2019 to 2024, more than 90 percent of the total acres on the Outer Continental Shelf would be made available for leasing. It proposes 47 potential offshore lease sales, the most ever over a five-year period, including 19 sales off the Alaska coast, 12 in the Gulf of Mexico, nine in the Atlantic Ocean, and seven in the Pacific.