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Interior secretary: ‘Opposition’ to offshore drill plan

United States Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks at an offshore winds energy forum Friday, April 6, 2018, in Plainsboro, New Jersey. The secretary noted there is "a lot of opposition" on the east and west coasts to President Trump's offshore oil and gas drilling plan, but would not say if he will exempt any state from it. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry) ORG XMIT: RPWP103 (Wayne Parry / AP)
United States Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke speaks at an offshore winds energy forum Friday, April 6, 2018, in Plainsboro, New Jersey. The secretary noted there is "a lot of opposition" on the east and west coasts to President Trump's offshore oil and gas drilling plan, but would not say if he will exempt any state from it. (AP Photo/Wayne Parry) ORG XMIT: RPWP103 (Wayne Parry / AP)
By Wayne Parry Associated Press

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 that 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.

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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