Delaware threatens legal action against offshore drilling plan

FILE - In a  in this Friday, May 9, 2003 file photo, angler Andy Hails, of Montgomery, Ala., checks the fishing lines on his boat as he trolls the Gulf of Mexico near a natural gas well off the Alabama coast near Gulf Shores, Ala. President Obama announced his new offshore drilling policy Wednesday, March 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

FILE - In a in this Friday, May 9, 2003 file photo, angler Andy Hails, of Montgomery, Ala., checks the fishing lines on his boat as he trolls the Gulf of Mexico near a natural gas well off the Alabama coast near Gulf Shores, Ala. President Obama announced his new offshore drilling policy Wednesday, March 31, 2010. (AP Photo/Dave Martin, File)

State Attorney General Matt Denn sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to formally object to the federal plan to allow oil drilling off Delaware’s coast.

Last week, Zinke moved forward with plans to allow new offshore oil and gas drilling in coastal waters surrounding almost the entire country. On Tuesday, Florida Gov. Rick Scott was granted his request to eliminate Florida’s coastal waters from the area drilling would be allowed.

On Thursday, Delaware AG Matt Denn wrote to Zinke to demand a similar exemption be considered for Delaware’s coast. In the letter Denn said Delaware will seek legal redress “if Delaware is not afforded the same rational analysis that resulted in areas off the Florida coast being exempted.”

Part of the reason Florida was taken off the table was because of that state’s heavy reliance on tourism as an economic driver. Denn’s letter points Zinke to Delaware’s reliance on beach tourism. “Delaware has over 60,000 jobs that directly or indirectly support the fishing, tourism, and recreation sectors.” He goes on to say that a recent study found 10 percent of the state’s employment, taxes and production value are directly connected to coastal activities.

Denn said it appears the proposal was put forth and is being considered “in a manner that violates federal law and constitutional due process rights.”

Delaware Gov. John Carney also wrote to Zinke, demanding a meeting with the secretary to discuss the risk offshore oil drilling would present to Delaware’s economy and natural resources. “The health of Delaware’s economy and environment are directly tied to the health of the state’s coastal areas. I cannot accept the tremendous risks associated with opening vast areas in the Atlantic to drilling,” Carney said in the letter.

Carney pointed to 7 million visitors that come to the state’s coastal communities every year, adding that the state’s coastal economy “generates almost $7 billion in economic production.”

On Friday, Carney spoke on the phone with Zinke about his concerns. “I invited the Secretary to visit Delaware to see firsthand what’s at stake for our state, our beach communities, our economy, and our natural resources,” Carney said in a statement following the phone call. “He accepted the invitation, and we look forward to his visit.” No date has been set for that visit.

During Thursday’s White House press briefing, Trump spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked about leaders of other states demanding the same treatment Florida received. “We’ll continue to talk to other stakeholders as we make decisions for other areas and other states,” Huckabee Sanders said.

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