As Florida evades Trump drilling plan, California and other coastal states ask, ‘What about us?’

A worker removes oil from the sand at Refugio State Beach in the Santa Barbara Channel, north of Goleta, Calif., as cleanup continued a month after the May 19 oil spill north of Santa Barbara, Calif. (Photo: Jae C. Hong/AP)

After Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke excluded Florida from his policy opening virtually the entire coastline of the continental U.S. to offshore oil drilling, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., complained that the administration was playing favorites — giving preferential treatment to Florida because, unlike many other coastal states, it has a Republican governor.

Schiff, who represents California’s 28th Congressional District — which includes much of Los Angeles (but not the beach communities)  — pointed out that California’s Gov. Jerry Brown also objected to resuming offshore oil drilling but that only Florida’s Rick Scott, a Republican who supported President Trump, got his way on the issue.

In exempting Florida from the Jan. 4 order, which reversed an Obama-era ban on drilling in the Arctic and areas of the Atlantic, Zinke praised Scott’s “leadership” and cited “the governor’s position that Florida is unique and its coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.” In a tweet, he added: “Local voice matters.”

“I have witnessed Governor Scott’s leadership through hurricane season and am working closely with him on Everglades restoration. He is a straightforward leader that can be trusted. 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. As a result of discussion with Governor Scott’s [sic] and his leadership, I am removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platforms.”

Trump happens to spend most of his vacation time in Florida. He regularly travels to Mar-a-Lago, the world-famous resort he owns in Palm Beach. He has referred to Mar-a-Lago as “The Southern White House.”

Scott, whose term ends next January, is not eligible for reelection but has been rumored as a possible Senate candidate for the seat held by Democrat Bill Nelson.

Schiff was joined by California Attorney General Xavier Becerra, who said California should be removed from the administration’s drilling list immediately. He used Zinke’s words to argue that California is also “unique” and that its “coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver.”

The California coast was the site of one of the nation’s most disastrous oil spills — off Santa Barbara, — in 1969.

Rep. Ted Lieu, D-Calif., accused the Department of the Interior of discrimination, calling Zinke’s views “arbitrary and capricious.”

The Trump administration has long promoted offshore drilling as a way to spur economic growth and secure energy independence. Despite opposition from coastal communities, the Trump-Zinke’s five-year plan expanded operations to areas that had previously been protected under President Barack Obama. This includes parts of the Atlantic Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic.

Brown joined Oregon Gov. Kate Brown and Washington Gov. Jay Inslee — both Democrats — in opposing the “political decision” the day it was announced. They said it puts “the magnificent and beautiful Pacific Coast waters” in harm’s way.

“They’ve chosen to forget the utter devastation of past offshore oil spills to wildlife and to the fishing, recreation and tourism industries in our states. They’ve chosen to ignore the science that tells us our climate is changing and we must reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. But we won’t forget history or ignore science,” the governors wrote in a joint statement. “For more than 30 years, our shared coastline has been protected from further federal drilling and we’ll do whatever it takes to stop this reckless, short-sighted action.”

Many governors along the East Coast also oppose the expansion. This includes democrats like New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, as well as Republican governors such as Massachusetts Gov. Charles Baker, Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. Longtime Trump supporter and outgoing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie reportedly opposed this plan as well.

Beachgoers sunbathe behind a wall of hay bales — used to absorb any oil that might come ashore — on Dauphin Island, Ala., on May 11, 2010. (Photo: Brian Snyder/Reuters)

Environmentalists unanimously condemned the decision as reckless. Sierra Club executive director Michael Brune argues that Trump and Zinke are “listening to the industry that’s bankrolled their campaigns and filled their administration,” rather than the American citizens they are supposed to represent.

And environmentalist groups were equally unimpressed by the announcement that Florida would be spared when the Trump administration placed it at risk in the first place. The League of Conservation Voters’ deputy legislative director, Alex Taurel, said, “If Secretary Zinke has really turned over a new leaf and decided to listen to local voices, he should listen to the outpouring of opposition coming from communities, businesses, and elected officials from both parties up and down our coasts and promptly withdraw his radical offshore drilling plan.”

Greenpeace USA climate campaign specialist Vicky Wyatt said Trump is already backtracking to “secure political favor.” In a statement, she said Trump is willing to gamble with the livelihoods of coastal communities as long as he doesn’t depend on their votes.

“Will Secretary Zinke also respect the wishes of the numerous governors who have also opposed drilling off their coasts, too?” she asked.

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