Why Zinke Gave Florida a Break on Drilling

After announcing the coast of almost all states would be open for oil and gas production, the Secretary of the Interior changed his mind on one after meeting with Trump’s favored candidate for Senate.
January 19, 2018, 12pm PST | Katharine Jose
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Reviewing a year of the Department of the Interior under Ryan Zinke, Elizabeth Kolbert notes that he is, "in many ways, a typical Trump appointee" in that "[n]early all Trump’s Cabinet members have shown disdain for the regulatory processes they’re charged with supervising."

Since he first rode into town and raised his flag over the agency, Zinke has reopened federal land for coal leases, recommended shrinking Bears Ears National Monument, expressed interest in making it easier to drill for oil and gas on public land, and rolled back regulation on methane.

Earlier this month, despite bipartisan opposition from both politicians and voters, Zinke announced he would open almost all of the coastal areas in the United States to offshore drilling.

Several days later, he took part of it back. After a brief meeting with Florida Governor Rick Scott, Zinke removed the state’s coast from consideration.

“The move was manifestly political. In the past, Scott has supported drilling for oil just about everywhere, including in the Everglades, but, with Trump’s encouragement, he is now expected to challenge Florida’s senior senator, Bill Nelson, a Democrat, in November.”

Even more recently, Zinke’s refusal to meet with the National Park Service Advisory Board prompted the resignation of nine of its 12 members.

"In the decades to come," Kolbert writes, "one can hope that many of the Trump Administration’s mistakes—on tax policy, say, or trade—will be rectified. But the destruction of the country’s last unspoiled places is a loss that can never be reversed."

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Published on Thursday, January 18, 2018 in The New Yorker
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