Senate Democrats Blast Zinke's Offshore Drilling Plan: "Like a Wish List for Oil Industry Execs"

Here are the highlights from yesterday's floor speeches.

Ten Senate Democrats took to the floor yesterday to remind U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that they vehemently oppose his plan to open nearly all of America’s coasts to offshore drilling. The lawmakers warned of the imminent threat that any amount of offshore drilling would pose to their communities and economies.

“The Trump administration failed to account for the value of the existing robust coastal and ocean economies, which would be jeopardized by expanding offshore drilling in those areas,” said Senator Maria Cantwell of Washington.

Washington’s other senator, Patty Murray, concurred: “It would be hard to overstate just how important Washington’s coastal waters are to our local way of life.”

Senator Tom Carper of Delaware pointed out that his state has just 30 miles of coastline—but that coastline generates billions of dollars in revenue each year.

Senator Angus King, Jr., of Maine chastised Zinke for the “very little, if any, consultation” he had engaged in prior to making a decision that could gravely impact the state’s single-largest employer: tourism. King donned a lobster tie while pointing out that the seafood industry, a symbol of the state, depends on clean water and healthy marine life in order to thrive.

Florida’s Senator Bill Nelson, whose state was hastily exempted from the offshore drilling policy, still spoke out, labeling the proposal both a “firestorm” and a “mess.” Of his state's exemption, Nelson said, “It was an obvious, transparent political stunt, but it created enormous uncertainty about what was truly under consideration for drilling. These five-year plans are supposed to be developed over the course of one or two years, with extensive input from the public, agency staff from the industries involved, from the environmental community. Five-year plans aren’t supposed to be a goody bag of political favors, and they can’t be undone by the secretary’s press conference or a tweet."

Other senators also decried Zinke’s decision to single out Florida’s “unique” shores. “If it’s good enough for Mar-a-Lago, it’s good enough for the New Jersey shore,” said Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey. He said the Interior Department’s offshore drilling plan read “like a wish list for oil industry executives.”

Senator Jeff Merkley of Oregon called the drilling proposal a plan to “override the will of the people,” going so far as to say that even the seismic testing done in preparation of drilling was an unacceptable disruption.

Standing in front of a blown-up image of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Senator Markey of Massachusetts called the proposal a “disgrace.”

And Senator Ron Wyden appeared to speak for the entire group when he repeated a line from his Twitter a few days earlier: “Drilling on the Oregon coast? You've got to be kidding me." 

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