Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke said Florida is a "unique" coastal state, and should be exempt from a new deal to open up US waters to offshore drilling.
Last Thursday, the Trump Administration released a plan that would allow the US government to lease out nearly all federal waters to oil companies for offshore drilling. But Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has reversed course on part of that plan, saying the Florida coast is now "off the table" because the state is "obviously unique."
"The president made it very clear that local voices count," Zinke said, according to the Associated Press, adding, "we are not drilling off the coast of Florida, which clearly the governor has expressed that’s important."
The original plan, announced by the Department of the Interior last week, would allow oil companies to bid for drilling rights in nearly all US waters over the next five years, save for a few marine sanctuaries and congressionally banned spots. The plan includes Atlantic and Pacific waters that hadn't been up for grabs since the 1980s.
This map shows what the original proposal, announced last week, included:
Florida Gov. Rick Scott was a vocal opponent of the plan, and promised to set up a meeting with the administration as soon as possible to discuss his disapproval. Protecting the state's natural resources, he said, is more important than opening up its waters for oil extraction.
Florida's economy has been threatened by drilling mishaps before: In 2010, when the Deepwater Horizon spill sent oil gushing into the waters near Louisiana and Mississippi, Florida lost millions of tourism dollars, Reuters reported.
The Florida Ocean Alliance estimates that coastal counties in the state drive 79% of its economy, with tourism and recreation accounting for the vast majority. The Natural Resources Defense Council estimates that fishing, tourism and related industries in the state employ over 383,300 Floridians.
But Florida isn't the only state where the economy is inextricably linked to the ocean, of course. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated that in 2014, the so-called ocean economy contributed more than $352 billion to US GDP and supported 3.1 million jobs.
Officials from other coastal states are furious about the decision to spare Florida from drilling, since their strong opposition to the plan seems to be getting ignored so far. California's State Attorney General was quick to raise his voice on Twitter Tuesday night:
The California Coastal Commission said that "producing oil and gas in these areas could have significant, longterm, and far-reaching effects on marine and coastal wildlife, commercial fishing, wetlands, ocean and beach users, and coastal tourism."
Many other states argue their coastline and waters are "unique" as well. Governors, tribal leaders, members of Congress, public officials, and members of the general public submitted public comments voicing their concern about the plan to the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.
Leaders of states up and down both coasts, including Oregon, Washington, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Delaware, Virginia and New York all agreed they were against the idea last week. But unlike Florida, none of those states voted for Trump in 2016.
Now other states that pulled the lever for Trump in 2016 want their voices heard, too. After hearing about Florida's special treatment, South Carolina's Republican Gov. Henry McMaster said he's pressing the administration for an exemption from the plan for his state, the Star Telegram reported. Meanwhile up the shoreline in North Carolina, democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's vocal opposition to the idea is at odds with his Lieutenant Gov. Dan Forest, who said offshore drilling could bring "thousands of jobs" to that state.