Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke delivers a speech billed as "A Vision for American Energy Dominance" at the Heritage Foundation on September 29, 2017 in Washington, D.C.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Trump administration hedges on Florida’s special drilling deal


It’s been nearly two weeks since Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced that Florida would be exempt from the Trump administration’s new coastal oil-drilling plan, touching off a controversy that led many governors – from both parties and both coasts – to demand equal treatment.

Complicating matters, it now appears the Trump administration may not honor Zinke’s promise to Gov. Rick Scott (R). The New York Times  reported:

In a surprise statement undercutting Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s announcement last week that he was exempting Florida from President Trump’s offshore drilling plan, a senior Interior Department official said Friday that Florida’s coastal waters had not been excluded after all. […]

On Friday, the head of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, the Interior Department agency that manages offshore leasing, said Mr. Zinke’s Florida decision was not final…. Instead, the bureau was pushing ahead with the required review of resources off the nation’s shores, including Florida’s, he said. A decision on whether to offer leases off Florida as part of the administration’s offshore program would come after that analysis.

Walter Cruickshank, the bureau’s acting director, told a House Committee on Natural Resources panel on Friday that Zinke’s statement was “not a formal action.” Cruickshank added that he didn’t know anyone at the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management whom Zinke had consulted before announcing special treatment for Florida.

In other words, the controversial cabinet secretary had effectively shared his opinion, but he didn’t announce an official policy – though it looked at the time as if Zinke had done exactly that.

Do you ever get the feeling that, a year into the Trump era, these guys really don’t know what they’re doing? That the president and his cabinet members are just winging it, making up bold policy moves on the fly without a whole lot of thought or discussion?

And while we’re on the subject, Axios reported yesterday that, as far as the White House is concerned, Zinke went “rogue” when he made a special deal for Florida, and now Donald Trump isn’t pleased.

“Zinke’s decision is both legally and politically dangerous for the Trump administration,” the piece added. “Zinke did not coordinate with anybody, and gave the White House no forewarning of his controversial action.”

As is usually the case with Trump World, it’s difficult to know whether to believe the scuttlebutt. But either way, it seems increasingly obvious that the Interior secretary just can’t stay out of trouble.