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Zinke: Bill Nelson should be thanking me for protecting Florida from drilling

"I'm going to do the right thing," the Interior secretary says.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke outside the White House on Feb. 26, 2018 (Alex Leary | Times)
Published Feb. 26, 2018
Updated Feb. 26, 2018

WASHINGTON – Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke has a message for Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and other critics of his decision to exempt Florida from the administration's offshore oil drilling plan: You should be thanking me.

"There's a federal moratorium off Florida. And in Florida, every member, both Republican and Democrat, were vehemently against offshore. .. .It's not capricious or arbitrary."

Zinke's decision was sharply criticized by Nelson as a political stunt to aid Gov. Rick Scott, and now officials in other states have said they should be exempt as well.

"You would think the opposition would have thanked me … Senator Nelson would have said hey, 'Thank you Interior for taking it off the table.' I guess in a political environment people criticize me for no matter what I do. It's OK. I'm going to do the right thing."

Responds Nelson:

"This shouldn't be about politics, this is about protecting Florida's coastline. Gov. Scott and the Trump administration both have a history of supporting expanding drilling off of Florida's coast. And just days after Sec. Zinke puts out a plan to open up nearly all of the waters off of Florida's coast to drilling, he and Scott hold a hastily put together press conference in the Tallahassee airport to tell Floridians: Don't worry, Florida will be safe – and we're supposed to take their word on it? If Florida really is safe, why do the maps that Interior is using at its public meetings still show Florida's waters open to drilling? I have fought my entire life to keep drilling away from Florida's coast and I'm certainly not going to stop now. If Sec. Zinke really wants to 'take Florida off the table' he could do so right now, by simply rescinding the current five-year drilling plan."