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Florida remains off table for Trump oil drilling plan, Zinke says

Interior Secretary was questioned again today about deal he cut with Gov. Rick Scott.
FL Gov. Rick Scott and US Dept of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announce there will be no new offshore oil drilling in the State of Florida. Both held a meeting and press conference at the Tallahassee International Airport, Tuesday. (Times | Scott Keeler)
Published May 10, 2018
Updated May 10, 2018

WASHINGTON -Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke maintained Thursday that Florida remains exempt from the Trump administration's plan to open up coastal waters to oil drilling — a move that continues to infuriate officials in other states.

"You have to admit it, it looked very political, right, meeting with the governor," Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen told Zinke at a Senate Appropriations Committee hearing.

Van Hollen asked the secretary if the Florida carve-out is still in effect.

"Yes," Zinke replied. "I'm committed to … no new oil and gas platforms off the coast of Florida. They are still in the process legally, but I'm committed to that."

In January, just days after a 5-year plan was announced, Zinke flew to Tallahassee and met with Gov. Rick Scott — a fellow Republican and now candidate for U.S. Senate — to say that Florida's coasts would be "off the table."

Under fire for that, Zinke pointed to widespread political opposition in Florida and an existing moratorium on new drilling in the gulf.

"Florida's a little different," he said Thursday.

But Zinke has been inconsistent on delivering that message, stressing that Florida is still part of the review process. Some argue he hurt Florida by cutting the deal with Scott.

Scott recently told the Tampa Bay Times that he's spoken directly with President Trump (who's said to be unhappy with the way Zinke handled the situation) and gotten assurances that Florida will not be part of a final plan.

Zinke suggested to Van Hollen that Maryland could breath easy, too.

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