NC Governor Cooper Seeks Offshore Drilling Exemption

Gov. Rick Scott delivers his last State of the State address on the first day of the legislative session Tuesday Jan. 9 2018 in Tallahassee Fla

Democrats said Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke were being hypocritical by agreeing to a request by Florida's Republican governor to withdraw from the drilling plan, but not making the same accommodation to states with Democratic governors.

Sierra Weaver, a lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Zinke's move was a breach of protocol that will put the Interior Department on shaky legal footing if the secretary doesn't treat other coastal states in the same way.

Democratic Rep. Adam Schiff of California said on Twitter his state, "like Florida, has hundreds of miles of lovely coastline and a governor who wants to keep it that way".

But Secretary Zinke's decision to take Florida off the table "should have his lawyers cringing", Hayes said.

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., calls the feds' decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling "a stunt".

"In this case Governor Deal can learn from our neighbors and send a clear message against drilling off Georgia coasts", she said.

Like King and Collins, Maine's two representatives in the House have also opposed any plans to drill off the Maine coast.

In the shorter term, Cooper and other democrats face an uphill battle to convince Zinke to exempt North Carolina from the Trump Administration's drilling plan. Otherwise we would find ourselves asking the same question that Oregon Gov. Kate Brown posed on CNN, "Why is this OK for Florida and not OK for Oregon?"

Meanwhile, as Governing notes, it's a little surprising that the Trump administration opted to make an exception for Florida - not just because of the backlash from other states but because of the potential profit in the eastern Gulf, right off Florida's coast.

The state is also important economically, with a multibillion-dollar tourism business built on sunshine and miles and miles of white sandy beaches. "The guarantee that drilling off the Florida coast will not happen during President Trump's tenure is a tremendous victory for Florida and for its people". Trump spent his Christmas and New Year's break at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

The Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, a critic of offshore wind farm proposals by LIPA and others, hasn't taken a formal position on Trump's drilling decision.

When asked if the exemption for Florida was a political favor for Scott, Sanford said "it certainly looks, smells, and feels that way".

However, only Scott was able to get results from his immediate opposition. Mounting uncertainties over the timeline and legislation could deter oil companies from planning to spend big on exploration, while drilling along the coastal areas could be challenged by states and could increase risks for oil firms' budget planning and possible legal expenses. This isn't about politics. The Trump administration announced it had ruled out drilling for oil and gas offshore Florida because, Zinke said, "its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver".

As with their neighbors to the north, the coastal regions of the mid-Atlantic states are heavily represented by Democrats, but several Republicans were quick to announce their opposition following the release of the draft plan.

Democratic governors along both coasts unanimously oppose drilling, as do a number of Republican governors, including McMaster, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and Massachusetts Gov. Charles Baker.

Industry groups praised the announcement, while environmental groups denounced the plan, saying it would harm America's oceans, coastal economies, public health and marine life.

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