The Trump administration’s efforts to craft a five-year offshore oil and gas leasing plan got off to a head-scratching start when less than a week into the process, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke removed the state of Florida from consideration after meeting with its governor.
The process has not gone any smoother over the past month, with the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) attracting criticism for how it organized public meetings to receive feedback on the offshore drilling plan. The bureau is holding one hearing per coastal state from now until March, almost all in inland communities hours from the coast where people would be affected by drilling.
In North Carolina, after meeting with Republican state lawmakers, Zinke was receptive to holding a second public meeting along the coast in Wilmington, North Carolina, to supplement the already-scheduled February 26 meeting in Raleigh, North Carolina. Officials in other states are questioning whether they will get the same treatment Zinke has granted Florida and North Carolina.
Across the country, the new offshore drilling plans haven’t received much support from local politicians. At least 15 governors of coastal states have publicly opposed the administration’s plans for offshore drilling — one third of these are Republicans. Maine Gov. Paul LePage (R) is the only governor of a state under consideration in the plan who supports offshore drilling.
Zinke’s handling of the new five-year offshore leasing program, so far, “underscores how disorganized and uninterested this administration is in preserving our coastline or stewarding our public lands,” Athan Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s Lands Protection Program, said in an interview with ThinkProgress.
When Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) immediately pushed back against the five-year plan, Zinke “jumps, flies down to Tallahassee, and says Florida is taken out of the plan,” said Manuel.