PLAINSBORO, N.J. — Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke acknowledges there is “a lot of opposition” to President Donald Trump’s plan to open most of the nation’s coastline to oil and gas drilling.
Speaking at a forum on offshore wind energy Friday in Plainsboro, New Jersey, Zinke touted Trump’s “all of the above” energy menu that calls for oil and gas, as well as renewable energy projects.
But he noted strong opposition to the drilling plan, adding there is little to no infrastructure in many of those areas to support drilling.
“There is a lot of opposition, particularly off the East Coast and the West Coast, on oil and gas,” Zinke said.
He said on the East Coast, only the governors of Maine and Georgia have expressed support for the drilling plan, which has roiled environmentalists but cheered energy interests. Maine Gov. Paul LePage has endorsed the plan, but Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has hesitated to take a public position on it.
“The rest of the governors are strongly opposed,” Zinke said, promising to consider the desire of coastal states when deciding on the drilling plan.
Zinke also took note of the growing number of states that are employing state-level laws to thwart the possibility of drilling off their coasts by banning infrastructure that would support drilling in state waters.
“If local communities don’t want it in state waters, the states have a lot of leverage,” Zinke said.
He said oil and gas production seems to be moving to waters off Latin America where regulations are less stringent, and added that oil and gas drilling is more environmentally risky than renewable energy such as wind projects, which he said have the greatest growth potential of all the options in America’s energy menu.
Yet Zinke would not commit to giving any state an exemption from the program, and specifically noted that Florida has not been exempted. In January, he said “Florida is different” and indicated the state would not be part of the drilling plan.
On Friday in New Jersey, Zinke said Florida has a drilling moratorium already in place.
“No one was exempted,” he said.
The secretary also announced that the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management will seek expressions of interest from companies about building wind energy projects in the New York Bight, an area of shallow waters between Long Island, New York, and the New Jersey coast.
The agency also announced it is proposing lease sales for two additional areas off Massachusetts for commercial wind energy projects totalling nearly 390,000 acres.
Liz Burdock, executive director of the Business Network for Offshore Wind, praised Zinke for supporting wind energy projects.
“The environment, the economy, and our moral commitments contribute to the importance of U.S. offshore wind as a key component of the ‘All of the Above’ energy policy,” she said.
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Wayne Parry, The Associated Press