Grijalva, Lowenthal and McEachin Demand Oversight Hearing to get Answers from Sec. Zinke on the Draft Five-Year Oil and Gas Leasing Plan

Washington, D.C. – In response to the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) inability to provide concrete details about DOI’s five-year oil and gas leasing plan, leading Democrats on the House Natural Resources Committee sent a letter to Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah) today requesting a full oversight hearing on the planning process and insisted that Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke testify to provide answers about his efforts. Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources Alan Lowenthal (D-Calif.), and Ranking Member of the Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations A. Donald McEachin (D-Va.), sent the letter in response to the Trump administration’s efforts to make it easier to open our coasts and oceans to unsafe oil and gas drilling, and the shifting explanations as to whether the waters around Florida are being considered.

The Ranking Member’s raised the following questions in their letter to justify the need for a DOI oversight hearing:

The American people, and in particular the people of Florida, are rightly confused about the current situation with the 5-year program. Has the Secretary made a final decision outside of the OCS Lands Act process to remove the waters around Florida from further consideration? If so, does he mean both the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts, and how far from the shoreline would be protected? Also, what factors did he use to decide that Florida was unique, and how have other states that have asked to be excluded not met Florida’s standard? Why is the Secretary telling the people of Florida different information than the agency in charge of developing the program? If Florida is truly still under consideration, as the Acting BOEM Director has indicated, why did the Secretary make his announcement in the first place? Furthermore, press reports indicated that the “agreement evolved during meetings over the last 12 months,” yet the DPP states that BOEM did not receive any comments from Governor Scott directly, and the comments that were received from other Florida agencies did not state a position on whether the waters around Florida should be open for leasing.  Why were the conversations between Secretary Zinke and Governor Scott not reported?

The complete letter can be viewed here: http://bit.ly/2DFVKBv.

The following is a timeline of the actions taken in just January of this year to make it easier to open our coasts and oceans to oil and gas drilling:

  • Jan. 4 – The Trump administration released its five-year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing along the entire Atlantic and Pacific coasts, a plan that would weaken offshore drilling environmental and safety standards, and put over 90 percent of our coasts in danger of drilling.
  • Jan. 9 – After a brief meeting with Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R), Secretary Zinke tweeted that Florida’s coast was off the table for offshore oil and gas drilling.
  • Jan. 10 – The first Committee markup of the year was on a Republican bill – the Streamlining Environmental Approvals or SEA Act (H.R. 3133) – that would make it easier for oil and gas companies to expedite industrial projects in our oceans.
  • Jan. 19 – Walter Cruickshank, acting director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), contradicted Secretary Zinke’s tweet by saying Florida’s coastal waters had not been excluded.
  • Jan. 19 – Grijalva and Lowenthal sent a letter to Secretary Zinke questioning the Department’s plan to rewrite two critical offshore oil and gas safety rules.
  • Jan. 23CNN Politics reported that Secretary Zinke defended his decision to exempt Florida on January 21, stating the “state’s coastline is unique.”

Press Contact

Diane Padilla (Grijalva) – (202) 225-6065 or (202) 226-3522

Keith Higginbotham (Lowenthal) – (202) 225-7924

Jamitress Bowden (McEachin) – (202) 225-6365