Governors Press for Exemptions From Expanded Offshore Drilling

Asbury Park, New Jersey

Asbury Park, New Jersey Seth Wenig / AP Photo


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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has gone silent after excluding Florida from a draft lease sales plan, but letters criticizing that decision’s “arbitrary” nature keep coming in.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the U.S. Interior secretary’s decision to exempt Florida from a draft plan expanding offshore drilling along the Atlantic coast “arbitrary” in a Monday letter demanding the same waiver.

Secretary Ryan Zinke’s determination came before his department has even concluded the public fact-finding process and prompted an immediate Twitter reaction from five governors including Cuomo.

Cuomo opposes the addition of nine offshore drilling lease sales in the Atlantic as part of the National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program. The state instead has an “ambitious agenda” to develop offshore wind energy, he said in his letter:

“[T]he plan undermines New York's efforts to combat climate change by shifting from greenhouse gas emitting fossil energy sources to renewable sources, such as offshore wind. Building upon my administration's mandate that 50 percent of the state's electricity come from renewable energy by 2030, I have committed New York to achieving 2.4 gigawatts of offshore wind energy by 2030—enough power for over 1.2 million homes. Rather than working against us to thwart New York's clean energy goals and hinder one of our state's most promising emerging industries, I urge your department to continue focusing on our collaborative efforts to establish new areas for offshore wind energy development.”

While Cuomo’s letter makes no mention of involving New York’s attorney general, unlike one sent by outgoing New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, it does point out that like Florida the state’s coast is vital to its economy—generating tens of billions of dollars across hundreds of thousands of jobs. An oil spill from a new drilling platform would cripple regional tourism and threaten hundreds of coastal ecosystem species, as well as port operations.

Five days earlier, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee made much the same case in his own letter seeking his state’s removal from the Interior Department’s proposal. The federal government hasn’t expanded offshore drilling along the Pacific Coast in decades.

Inslee requested a meeting with Zinke, pointing out that Washington is home to the largest shellfish industry in the U.S. and has previously faced oil spills in 1988 and 1991.

“Washington State has been exempted from new federal oil and gas lease sales since 1984, and our state’s coastal waters have become incompatible with oil and gas drilling activities,” Inslee said in his letter. “We have joined with our fellow West Coast states, California and Oregon, in urging your department not to expand oil and gas leasing off of our shared coastline."

Dave Nyczepir is a News Editor at Government Executive’s Route Fifty and is based in Washington, D.C.

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