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After Florida, more states press US for offshore drilling exemptions

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Governors and other officials from several U.S. coastal states ramped up pressure on the Trump administration on Wednesday to exempt their waters from an offshore drilling plan, hours after the Interior Department granted Florida’s request to opt out.

The backlash could complicate President Donald Trump’s efforts to expand oil and gas production offshore. A proposed leasing plan unveiled last week aims to open up all U.S. coasts to drillers over the next five years. Alaska and Maine are the only two U.S. states whose governors have expressed support for the plan.

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The governors of Delaware, North Carolina and South Carolina on Tuesday were seeking meetings with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to press their case that drilling would pose significant risks to coastal tourism, while other state representatives issued sharply worded tweets.

“Tourism and recreation along the Delaware coastline account for billions in economic activity each year, and support tens of thousands of jobs,” Governor John Carney of Delaware, a Democrat, said on Twitter Wednesday.

“New York doesn’t want drilling off our coast either. Where do we sign up for a waiver @SecretaryZinke?” wrote New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, also a Democrat.

Zinke had announced late Tuesday that he was removing Florida state waters from the proposed offshore drilling plan at the request of Governor Rick Scott, who argued that drilling poses a threat to Florida’s tourism.

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In the announcement, Zinke called Scott, a fellow Republican, a “straightforward leader that can be trusted.”

On Wednesday, Zinke told the Washington Post that he will talk to every governor affected by the offshore drilling proposal.

“It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re Republican or Democrat. This is going to be a long process,” he told the newspaper.

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The Interior Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sierra Weaver, a lawyer for the Southern Environmental Law Center, said Zinke’s move was a breach of protocol that will put the Interior Department on shaky legal footing if the secretary doesn’t treat other coastal states in the same way.

“It seems incredibly hard to justify or explain that this is anything other than arbitrary or capricious,” said Weaver.

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Matt Lee-Ashley, a senior fellow at the liberal Center for American Progress and former deputy chief of staff under Obama’s Interior Department, said Zinke’s action by Tweet could undermine his five-year offshore plan.

“Offshore drilling decisions in the United States are, by law, supposed to be guided by science, public input, and a careful balancing of environmental and energy needs,” he said.

Governor Roy Cooper of North Carolina, also a Democrat, Tweeted on Tuesday morning “Not Off Our Coast,” with a link to Zinke’s Tuesday night decision on Florida. A source with knowledge of the matter said Cooper was also trying to arrange a meeting with Zinke.

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South Carolina’s Republican Governor Henry McMaster on Wednesday issued a statement asking for a meeting with Zinke to protect his state’s coastline.

(Writing by Richard Valdmanis; Editing by David Gregorio and Lisa Shumaker)


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2020 Election

Virginia was the bellwether of 2017’s big blue wave — but could it happen again?

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In November 2017, powered by a surge of grassroots activism one year after Donald Trump’s election, Democrats wiped out a Republican supermajority in the Virginia House of Delegates, and came within one disputed ballot and a random drawing of sharing power in a 50-50 chamber — an early harbinger of the 2018 blue wave. Now they’re back to finish the job, aiming to recapture control of both legislative chambers for the first time in 26 years and set the tone for the 2020 election.

Swing Left, a key player in flipping the House of Representatives last year, has targeted 15 races in the House of Delegates and five in the State Senate. Their main focus is people power, but they’ve also raised more than $550,000 in grassroots donations as of Sept. 11. Just two seats are needed to flip each chamber, and a court-ordered redistricting has made flipping the House much more doable.

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‘Did Obama know?’ Rudy Giuliani flings wild new accusations against Biden in overnight tweet rant

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President Donald Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani hurled accusations of Ukraine corruption at Joe Biden and his son in a series of middle-of-the-night tweets.

The president admitted Sunday to speaking to Ukraine's president about an investigation of Hunter Biden's business dealings with a natural gas company in the country, after a series of reports revealed his efforts to pressure that government to come up with dirt on the former vice president.

Early Monday morning, Giuliani accused Kiev of laundering $3 million to Hunter Biden and suggested the Obama administration was aware but did nothing, although the former New York City mayor offered no supporting evidence of those allegations.

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Chronically underpaid EMTs are being assaulted at record rates

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If Upton Sinclair were to write the modern equivalent to “The Jungle,” he might make the setting the metaphorical meat grinder of today’s emergency medical services industry.

Across the nation, emergency medical service professionals, the front-line workforce upon which so much of a patient outcome rests, are grossly underpaid for brutal work schedules that put them at risk of both serious physical injury and burnout.

The cherry on the top of this abuse sundae is that they are 14 times more likely to be violently assaulted on the job than a firefighter.

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