Zinke Claims He Exempted Florida From Drilling Plan Due To ‘Coastal Currents’

U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke listens during a Cabinet meeting at The White House in Washington, DC, December  20, 2017. Credit: Chris Kleponis / Polaris
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About three weeks after Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that he would exempt Florida from the Trump administration’s plan to expand offshore drilling, Zinke on Tuesday offered a new explanation for his decision.

Zinke’s announcement exempting Florida was seen as a political move since top Republicans are pushing Gov. Rick Scott to run for Senate in 2018.

Zinke told CNN that he was moved to exempt Florida because the state’s coast is unique.

“The coastal currents are different, the layout of where the geology is,” he said.

He also claimed that he met with Gov. Scott quickly, and not with the governors of other states, about the issue because Scott and “every member” representing Florida contacted him.

“In the case of Florida, the governor asked first for an immediate meeting and every member on both sides of the aisle contacted my office, wrote letters on it. So Florida is unique. As well as every other state has theirs,” Zinke told CNN.

The Interior secretary’s explanation for the exemption differs from his initial comments about the decision. In his statement earlier in January explaining the exemption, he said that Florida’s “coasts are heavily reliant on tourism as an economic driver,” but he did not mention anything about “currents” or “geology.”

In his statement urging Zinke to exempt Florida from the drilling plan, Scott did not mention the state’s “currents” or “geology” and merely said he wanted to “ensure that Florida’s natural resources are protected.”

However, it appears that Zinke may have acted without President Donald Trump’s blessing. The President was reportedly angered by Zinke’s decision to exempt Florida without giving Trump any kind of heads up, according to an Axios report.

It also looks like Zinke’s announcement did not represent a final decision. The official who runs the Interior agency that manages offshore drilling told a House committee on Friday that Zinke’s announcement exempting Florida was “not a formal action.”