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.
.@SecretaryZinke: 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.— Xavier Becerra (@AGBecerra) January 10, 2018
If that's your standard, we, too, should be removed from your list. Immediately. https://t.co/T6W6JaPCPh
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.
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.
Local voices in Virginia have also spoken up. This would hurt our coastal economies and threaten our naval operations in Norfolk. If it’s truly about “local voice”—not just protecting President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago—then make this same commitment for Virginia. https://t.co/7n8ZyNDy0D— Tim Kaine (@timkaine) January 10, 2018
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.”
Taking #Florida off the table for offshore drilling but not #California violates the legal standard of arbitrary and capricious agency action. California and other coastal states also rely on our beautiful coasts for tourism and our economy. I believe courts will strike this down https://t.co/xWyB69F7Gg— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 10, 2018
Rationale by Secretary Zinke that the Florida Governor can be "trusted" does not justify discriminatory agency action in favor of Florida over other states. No evidence other Governors can't be trusted. I am thankful that Zinke put his arbitrary and capricious views in writing. https://t.co/rNLgXP5MYJ— Ted Lieu (@tedlieu) January 10, 2018
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.
Secretary Zinke must also abandon his efforts to drill along California's beautiful coastline — protection of our ocean shouldn't depend on the D, R, or I after the governor's name. https://t.co/SJjb5CbVMC— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 10, 2018
Dear Secretary Zinke, California like Florida, has hundreds of miles of beautiful coastline and a governor who wants to keep it that way. Or is that not enough for blue states? https://t.co/vQ5Qtl8Xik— Adam Schiff (@RepAdamSchiff) January 10, 2018
We'd like a word in Virginia. https://t.co/hKumvPMcV4— Ralph Northam (@RalphNortham) January 10, 2018
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.”
SO YOU ARE EXEMPTING THE STATE THAT IS HOME TO THE FESTERING CANKEROUS CONFLICT OF INTEREST THAT THE ADMINISTRATION LIKES TO CALL THE "WINTER WHITE HOUSE" AND NONE OF THE OTHER AFFECTED STATES??????? GO LOOK UP "BANANA REPUBLIC" THEN GO FLY A ZINKE FLAG TO CELEBRATE MAKING US ONE— Walter Shaub (@waltshaub) January 10, 2018
- This article originally appeared on HuffPost.