Democrats have argued that Trump and 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.
The Trump administration released last week to open almost all USA waters, including huge swaths of the Arctic, Atlantic and Pacific oceans, to oil exploration - a move that drew outrage from both Democrats and Republicans. Zinke said the Florida decision came as a result of local opposition and that its coast drives tourism.
White House press secretary Sarah Sanders denied the administration gave special treatment to Florida Gov. Rick Scott, an ally of President Donald Trump who is considered a likely Senate candidate later this year.
Merkley, Wyden and the Senators requested exemptions for their states, too, writing: "Just like Florida, our states are unique with vibrant coastal economies". "When you have a state that has military bases tied to training exercises in the eastern Gulf, you have got to be very adamant that you have to oppose offshore drilling". "If it was anything but that, Secretary Zinke would have announced tonight that he was removing Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Georgia, where offshore drilling has already been rejected by local and state voices".
The letter from the state delegation said the coastal tourism industry generates $44 billion and supports about 10 percent of the total state workforce.
Coastal Democrats from California to NY are blasting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke for what they view as a political and arbitrary decision to.
In addition to Merkley and Wyden, the letter was led by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) and signed by U.S. Senators Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Benjamin L. Cardin (D-MD), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tom Carper (D-DE), Patty Murray (D-WA), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Charles Schumer (D-NY), Maggie Hassan (D-NH), Chris Coons (D-DE), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Tim Kaine (D-VA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
We write to you today regarding your recent decision to remove Florida from inclusion in the Trump Administration's new proposal to open up the vast majority of the outer continental shelf to oil and gas drilling.
In response to the plan, Louisiana's United States Congressman, Mike Johnson, released the following statement.
But then, after Scott lobbied against the move, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Tuesday he was removing Florida's coastal waters from consideration for future offshore oil drilling.
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