May 15, 2018

Van Hollen Presses Zinke on Offshore Drilling

Today, U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen pressed U.S. Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to answer for his decision to exempt Florida from offshore drilling efforts and questioned him on why Maryland has not been treated equally. Senator Van Hollen has strongly opposed the Administration’s proposal to open the Atlantic Coast to offshore drilling. A transcript of the Senator’s exchange is available below and video is available here.
SENATOR CHRIS VAN HOLLEN, D-MD: Now, a little more controversial issue. This has to do with the January 4th announcement, where you set out draft regulations to open the Atlantic Coast to oil and gas drilling – including my state of Maryland. And within a very short period of time, I think it was 5 days later, you tweeted out, “Taking Florida off the table for offshore oil and gas.” Then you attached a statement, “Removing Florida from consideration for any new oil and gas platform.”
I’m sure you can understand why states like Maryland had their eyebrows go up with that. It sounded very arbitrary and capricious. So my first question is does that still stand? Is Florida off?
SECRETARY RYAN ZINKE, INTERIOR: Yes. I’m committed to remain that there are no new oil and gas platforms off the coast of Florida. They are still in the process legally, but I’m committed to that. And allow me to tell you what I did, really shortly.
VAN HOLLEN: So if I could –
ZINKE: Zero base. I put everything on. And if I would have left Florida off, it would have been arbitrary and capricious. So I put Florida on.
VAN HOLLEN: Mr. Secretary, here’s the thing. I think that it might have been arbitrary and capricious to leave them off, since you were looking at everything. In my view, it’s clearly arbitrary and capricious to then, by tweet, say that you are taking them off and, at the same time, testifying that they are still in the process legally -- but you have already made the decision politically to take them off. That sounds arbitrary and capricious.
So what I’d like is to get a commitment to put Maryland in the same category. Because I saw your testimony before the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, chaired by the Chairman of this Subcommittee, and Angus King asked you about this, Senator King from Maine. He asked you about this, and you said this were the criteria – and Florida was different for three reasons. One: every member on both sides of the aisle wrote you a letter saying they are opposed to it. So Mr. Secretary –
ZINKE: That’s true, plus the governor.
CHRIS VAN HOLLEN: So the Maryland delegation is on record opposing this in a bipartisan way, number one.
ZINKE: I’ve talked to your governor
VAN HOLLEN: Then in Maine, you said the Maine governor was actually in favor of it. But the reality is in Maryland, Governor Hogan, a Republican governor, is on record against it.
ZINKE: And I’ve talked to the governor.
VAN HOLLEN: So my question to you is that, given that we meet those criteria, can you tell me today that we will be treated the same as Florida?
ZINKE: You will be treated the same as Florida under the process. Florida is a little different.
VAN HOLLEN: No. I’m asking you whether you will treat us the same as Florida in terms of tweeting out later today that we’re off the list.
ZINKE: Florida has a moratorium in place. It’s a little different.
VAN HOLLEN: Mr. Secretary, you know that that moratorium is not on the Atlantic Coast. You know that moratorium is in place on the Gulf Coast…Let’s just be real. This was about the Atlantic Coast, including the Atlantic Coast of Florida. Yes, there is a Florida moratorium on the Gulf Coast. It has nothing to do with Florida’s Atlantic Coast. You took Florida’s Atlantic Coast off, at least according to your testimony the other day, because their delegation was unanimously against it and their governor was against it. Those conditions apply in Maryland.
ZINKE:  And a moratorium, which is off the coast of Florida, which would not allow the drilling of oil and gas.
VAN HOLLEN: Off the Gulf Coast.
ZINKE: Off the Gulf Coast.
VAN HOLLEN: Not the Atlantic Coast.
ZINKE: Correct.
VAN HOLLEN: That moratorium is not in place off the Atlantic Coast of Florida –
ZINKE: I have some good news for you though.
VAN HOLLEN: Good news?
ZINKE: The good news is this. There are no known resources off the coast of Maryland. Number two is the President has ensured that we take the local community in consideration and the views of this body, the Representatives. Three is that there is no infrastructure off the coast. And four is that state waters matter. So you would have to actually have to bring something offshore through state waters, and if the state decides to say no? Since you have no resources, you have no infrastructure, and the state, I think you’re going to be very happy with our planning process as we go through. We should release the first draft in the fall.
VAN HOLLEN:  Well I just hope that we could put this on a hyper speed like you did in Florida. I mean, you have to admit it – it looked very political – meeting with the governor, making that political announcement by tweet. And I just hope that Maryland and other states that meet those criteria get the same considerations.