The administration plan calls for opening 90 percent of the U.S. coasts to oil and gas drilling, and scheduling 47 lease sales between 2019 and 2024. With states opposed and potential legal challenges, can it succeed?
On Tuesday evening—five days after releasing a draft five-year leasing plan that is unprecedented in scale—Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced on Twitter that he was removing Florida from the plan.
“After talking with @FLGovScott, I am removing #Florida from the draft offshore plan,” he tweeted. In another tweet, he wrote, “Local voice matters.” That decision set off an uproar along the coasts—and it could open Zinke’s plan to legal challenges, as well as political ones.
On Thursday, the top Democrat on a U.S. Senate committee that oversees the Interior Department said Zinke’s actions may have violated requirements of a law governing federal offshore areas. She requested that all correspondence between the department and the State of Florida regarding the drilling plan be turned over to the committee for review.
Ten U.S. Senators from New England also introduced legislation Thursday to bar offshore drilling along their stretch of the East Coast. Officials from New Jersey, New York, Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, California, Oregon and Washington have voiced opposition to drilling off their coasts, and lawmakers from both political parties have called for their states to be removed from Zinke’s plan. ..
…The extensive Zinke plan, which called for opening more than 90 percent of the Outer Continental Shelf for oil and gas leasing and scheduling 47 lease sales between 2019 and 2024, already was ripe for lawsuits, according to David Hayes, who was the Interior Department’s deputy secretary and chief operating officer at points in the Clinton and Obama administrations….
…The Coastal Zone Management Act also allows states to slow the leasing process from the get-go and would provide ample opportunity for lawsuits, “forcing oil companies to tie up capital for decades with no clear return,” Ori wrote in an analysis for Forbes.
With multiple phases of environmental review cooked into the federally mandated process for approving the plan, environmental groups have time to sue and slow the process further….