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Nelson: Zinke Inconsistent With Oil Drilling Plan


Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke appears to be doubling down on the confusion, about whether or not Florida is exempt from a five-year offshore drilling plan announced in January.

Appearing before the House Natural Resources Committee on Thursday, Zinke responded to Rep. Norma Thomas, a California Democrat, about why her state didn’t get an exemption like Florida.

“Florida did not get an exemption,” Zinke told Thomas. “In the case of Florida, three things: one is every member [of Florida’s congressional delegation], on both sides of the aisle, wrote me a letter. The second is the Governor asked me for an immediate meeting, and third there’s a little thing called the Federal Moratorium that expires in 2022.”

After meeting the Gov. Rick Scott at the Tallahassee airport in January, Zinke announced that Florida was “off the table” for drilling. His latest stance comes just two days after telling the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that “Florida is still in the process.”

“And I could have put Florida off the list in the beginning, because the executive order from the President did specifically look at Florida,” said Zinke. “But had I left Florida off it would have been arbitrary and capricious.”

“Right now, [Zinke’s] promise is just empty words,” said U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson on the Senate floor last month. He has sent another letter to Zinke, emphasizing his call to remove Florida from the plan. It was sent as Interior prepares to close the public comment period, and a few weeks after the attorneys general of 12 coastal states threatened legal action if the plan remains on the table.

Credit fsu.edu
U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) is pressing the Dept. of the Interior on Florida's offshore drilling status.

“Terminate the draft proposal; terminate it entirely,” said Nelson. “Or else they’re going to pursue they’re appropriate legal avenues. The whole process has been fraught with confusion, because it was a political stunt.”

Nelson also contends that Zinke wants to unravel all of the safety standards that were put into place after the Deepwater Horizon explosion, which killed 11 people in 2010 and spewed five million barrels of crude into the Gulf of Mexico.

On Thursday, Zinke told Rep. Thomas that at this point, additional study will be conducted before any final decision is reached.

“My commitment to California….I’ll say the same thing to your Governor [Jerry] Brown,” Zinke told Thomas, “At the end of the day, this President want [sic] to take in consideration of local communities; of the state. And this happens every five years.”

In response to the confusion over offshore drilling, or no offshore drilling, Nelson is blocking three Interior Department nominees, until Secretary Ryan Zinke offers a new offshore drilling plan which would, without a shred of doubt, take Florida out of the mix.