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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.

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

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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.

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

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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

‘Kiss Florida goodbye’: Voto Latino head warns Democrats of coming 2020 debacle

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Appearing on MSNBC's "AM Joy," Voto Latino CEO María Teresa Kumar said Democrats should not count on taking Florida's 29 electoral votes in the upcoming 2020 presidential election if Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is the at the top of the ticket.

During a fairly contentious panel discussion on the viability of Sanders as a candidate due to self-identifying as a democratic socialist, Kumar claimed that would not play well Florida's Latino community.

"All I can think about when David [Corn] was unpacking it for us, we can all agree is you can kiss Florida goodbye," she explained. "I say that, Floridians -- Latinos that have fled socialism, they have fled and they are in Florida and they have sensibilities that are different from the rest of the Latino community."

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CNN’s Bakari Sellers schools Rick Santorum over claim Trump is not part of the ‘extreme hard right’

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During a panel discussion on CNN's State of the Union, contributor Bakari Sellers set fellow panelist Rick Santorum straight after he tried to claim that Donald Trump doesn't take far-right positions.

Following a discussion on Sen. Bernie Sanders' Nevada caucus win, Santorum tried to note the major differences between Trump and Sen. Bernie Sanders.

Responding to conservative commentator Linda Chavez who called both Sanders and Trump "two angry people," Santorum remarked, "I wanted to take issue with what Linda said: two angry folks representing the extremes, and I would agree with that, with Bernie Sanders, and he is representing, no question, the extreme of the Democratic Party and he says that he is a socialist and he is angry, I agree."

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‘Jesus was not a socialist!’ Fox News panel explodes over Jesus Christ’s political views

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Conservative religious pundits on Fox News recoiled in outrage on Sunday after a left-leaning guest suggested that Jesus Christ was "more of a socialist" than a capitalist.

During a Fox & Friends segment designed to cast doubt on the faith or Democratic presidential candidates, evangelical pastor Robert Jeffress argued that socialism is "antithetical to Christianity."

But St. Paul Reverend Dee Dawkins-Haigler reminded the other panelists that scriptures seemed to point to what people now call socialism.

"We believe in things like, what did you do to the least of them?" Dawkins-Haigler explained. "You fed the hungry, you clothed the naked, you went to see those who are in prison."

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