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Senators from 12 states seek offshore drilling exemptions like Florida's

From Reuters - January 11, 2018

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Twenty-two Democratic U.S. senators from 12 states on Thursday joined the chorus of local representatives seeking exemptions from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinkes newly proposed offshore drilling plan, after his surprise move on Tuesday to shield Florida.

Zinke surprised lawmakers, governors, and industry groups on Tuesday night by announcing that Florida would be removed from the Interior Departments proposal to open up over 90 percent of federal waters to oil and gas leasing.

Zinke had met in Tallahasee, Floridas capital, with Republican Governor Rick Scott, who told the Interior chief that drilling puts his states coastal tourism economy at risk. Scott is widely expected to challenge Democratic Senator Bill Nelson, who is up for re-election this year.

The White House dismissed suggestions that Floridas exemption was a political favor to Scott. I am not aware of any political favor that that would have been part of, spokeswoman Sarah Sanders told reporters.

Just like Florida, our states are unique with vibrant coastal economies, wrote the 22 senators, who include Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Kamala Harris of California. Providing all of our states with the same exemption from dangerous offshore oil and gas drilling would ensure that vital industries from tourism to recreation to fishing are not needlessly placed in harms way, they wrote.

Interior Department spokeswoman Heather Swift said Zinke intends to meet with every coastal governor affected by the agencys proposed offshore drilling plan, a process that could take a year.

Democrats are not alone in pressuring Zinke to exempt their states from drilling. South Carolinas Republican Governor Henry McMaster asked Zinke for an exemption, citing the value of his states coastal tourist economy.

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