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Dropping Florida from Offshore Drilling Opens Legal Cracks in Zinke's Plan
The Trump administration wanted to open 90 percent of the U.S. coasts to oil and gas drilling. Can it succeed? EPIC's Sam Ori weighs in.
It took less than a week for cracks to develop in the Trump administration's plan to open almost the entire offshore area of the United States to oil and gas drilling.
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...
...Five-year leasing plans are federally required to consider the laws, goals and policies of affected states. "These are factors that must be considered," Hayes said. "But it doesn't mean [governors] have a veto authority."
But, should Zinke continue against the states' wishes, they do have legal options, said Sam Ori, executive director at the University of Chicago's Energy Policy Institute.
While the federal government controls the waters of the Outer Continental Shelf, where any drilling would take place, the states have jurisdiction over their coasts and the first several miles of ocean. That means they could stand in the way of any pipelines needed to bring oil and gas resources onshore.
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.
Given the scope of the plan, Ori said the administration must have known it was unlikely for it to go into effect as written. "It doesn't seem to me to be focused on necessarily achieving things that are realistic," he said.
Hayes agreed. "This is a completely unrealistic pander to those who are pushing to drill anywhere, all the time, regardless of environmental sensitivity," he said.