In choosing to exempt Florida from a proposed expansion of offshore oil drilling, U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke called the state "obviously unique," crediting Governor Rick Scott with voicing opposition to the plan in front of the Trump administration.
Scott had said Florida’s coast is a cradle of tourism, an essential piece of the economy that would be harmed if oil rigs dotted the horizon. But leaders in several other coastal states had made similar arguments, and they were not happy with the announcement Tuesday.
U.S. Rep. Adam Schiff, a Democrat from California, questioned the administration’s motives.
Scott, a Republican, is an ally of Trump who is considering challenging U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, a Democrat, in this year’s Senate race in Florida. Nelson called the Zinke announcement a “political stunt.”
“I have spent my entire life fighting to keep oil rigs away from our coasts,” Nelson said Tuesday. “But now, suddenly, Secretary Zinke announces plans to drill off Florida’s coast and four days later agrees to ‘take Florida off the table?’ I don’t believe it.”
The Trump administration’s announcement last week that it would seek to expand offshore drilling met with immediate resistance across the country. The opposition came from both sides of the political aisle, with Republican governors Chris Sununu in New Hampshire and Larry Hogan in Maryland, and Scott in Florida, all saying they disagreed with the plan.
Maryland’s Attorney General Brian Frosh quickly weighed in on Florida’s sudden exemption Tuesday.
Zinke, a former Montana congressman, stood beside Scott after a brief meeting at the Tallahassee airport. He said the governor had lobbied Trump officials across several meetings.
“You have a tremendous governor,” Zinke said. “He says exactly what he means. Florida is well-served.”