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Our View: Drill here but not there? Heck, no

Florida’s offshore development exemption based on politics, not economics

Published on January 12, 2018 10:46AM

An offshore oil platform in the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif.

AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

An offshore oil platform in the Santa Barbara Channel off the coast of Santa Barbara, Calif.

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A worker removes oil from the sand at Refugio State Beach in the Santa Barbara Channel, north of Goleta, Calif., a month after the May 19, 2015 oil spill north of Santa Barbara, Calif.

AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

A worker removes oil from the sand at Refugio State Beach in the Santa Barbara Channel, north of Goleta, Calif., a month after the May 19, 2015 oil spill north of Santa Barbara, Calif.

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The ink had barely dried on our editorial this week expressing concerns about the Trump administration’s green light to more private offshore drilling leases when an odd thing happened.

Ryan Zinke, the president’s interior secretary, traveled to Florida to meet urgently with the governor, Rick Scott.

And at the end of an extremely cordial meeting, Zinke announced that there would be no oil and gas drilling off the Florida coastlines.

Apparently, the governor told him Florida’s economy was “unique” and relies so much on tourism that state officials were worried that if anything went wrong with any drilling there was a danger of potential environmental contamination.

Does that sound familiar?

Oregon could make the exactly same argument.

So could Washington.

So could California and Alaska, two states which have coastlines longer than some entire countries.

And, let’s not to leave out the East Coast.

It’s far from a red versus blue state controversy. In fact, Republican governors in New Hampshire, South Carolina, Maryland, Massachusetts and Georgia are aghast at Florida’s preferential treatment. And leaders in Rhode Island, New York, New Jersey, Delaware, Virginia, North Carolina and Connecticut have all opposed new drilling leases off their coasts, too.

Close to home, we worry about our economy, especially the vulnerable West Coast fisheries, which are vulnerable to potential environmental disasters. Commercial fishing supports more than $500 million in personal income in Oregon.

In 2016, the Oregon tourism industry directly employed almost 110,000; visitors spent more than $11 billion here. Tourists don’t want to look out at giant man-made monstrosities while playing on our beaches.

The West Coast, quite rightly, jumped on the administration’s Florida action and cried “foul!”

Oregon’s Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley joined leaders representing other coastal states to tell the Trump administration that they don’t want offshore oil and gas drilling. They are demanding the same respect given to Florida, which was granted the exemption. Arguments are the same for all our coasts.

Since the Florida revelation, much has been discussed about Donald Trump’s business empire in the Sunshine state, including his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach. If that was a factor in the decision, then it was unconscionable. And Florida’s governor, Scott, is a Republican, whereas the three West Coast states have Democratic Party governors.

But even if you take those suspicions out of the equation, the Florida exception simply fails to meet the fair play sniff test. That state’s concerns are legitimate — and exactly the same as ours.

It is perfectly reasonable that we demand equal treatment. The only bright spot in this controversy is that elements of the negative reaction are likely to cross party lines with equal passion.



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