Interior secretary gets strong GOP resistance to drilling plan, starts backing off

Emma Dumain, McClatchy Washington Bureau on

Published in Political News

Rep. Mark Sanford, R-S.C., another coastal representative and drilling opponent, said every Republican at the Feb. 27 meeting expressed similar sentiments.

"There was a fairly consistent refrain with regard to hypothetical environmental impacts, tourism impacts and 'wait a minute, our coast is unique too,'" Sanford recalled.

In other words, every state that wants an exemption is arguing its circumstances are special, but they all share similarities that would make it difficult for Zinke to pull out of one locality but not another and still maintain credibility.

Zinke even said at a recent meeting with Gov. Roy Cooper, D-N.C., and local officials and community leaders, that none of the coastal communities up and down the east coast currently have the necessary infrastructure to support offshore drilling in the first place, according to Tom Kies, president of the Carteret County Chamber of Commerce, who was present.

Zinke plans to visit North Carolina's coast soon, too.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, the House Natural Resources Committee chairman who attended the Feb 27 meeting, said his colleagues were jumping to conclusions. He said Zinke made no promises to anybody and appeared on track to continue implementing the administration's drilling agenda as intended.

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"I don't think Zinke made a final commitment to anybody," Bishop said. "Until you see something in black and white, almost everyone hears what they want to hear. Until you see it written down, nothing is finalized."

The administration has also gone through a painstaking process to make clear Florida wouldn't get its official exemption until the end of the Interior Department's review process. The public comment period will end Friday, with the administration presenting a final decision later.

Stressing that process is likely to cool expectations and please powerful lobbyists who want all states to allow drilling.

To Taylor, Zinke is just trying to do his job under difficult circumstances.


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