Sign up for our daily briefing

Make your busy days simpler with Axios AM/PM. Catch up on what's new and why it matters in just 5 minutes.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Stay on top of the latest market trends

Subscribe to Axios Markets for the latest market trends and economic insights. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Sports news worthy of your time

Binge on the stats and stories that drive the sports world with Axios Sports. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Tech news worthy of your time

Get our smart take on technology from the Valley and D.C. with Axios Login. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Get the inside stories

Get an insider's guide to the new White House with Axios Sneak Peek. Sign up for free.

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Catch up on coronavirus stories and special reports, curated by Mike Allen everyday

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Denver news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Denver

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Des Moines news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Des Moines

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Twin Cities news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Twin Cities

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Tampa Bay news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Tampa Bay

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Want a daily digest of the top Charlotte news?

Get a daily digest of the most important stories affecting your hometown with Axios Charlotte

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Please enter a valid email.

Please enter a valid email.

Subscription failed
Thank you for subscribing!

Line of people stretches across Pensacola beach in the June 2010 Hands Across the Sand protest against the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s decision late yesterday to remove all of Florida from the agency’s new offshore oil-and-gas leasing plan is immediately roiling the politics — and may complicate the legal future — of the sweeping proposal.

Why it matters: This announcement, which followed a meeting with GOP Florida Gov. Rick Scott, happened as the ink was still drying on the Trump administration's draft plan released last week. It takes away all of an area — the eastern Gulf of Mexico off Florida — that the industry has long had interest in exploring. And, some say it was decided rather arbitrarily and could become part of expected legal battles over the plan.

The politics: Some narrowing of the plan wasn't unexpected. The draft plan's wide scope lets the administration expand industry's access while giving some anti-drilling coastal Republicans political wins by removing areas as it's refined in the bureaucratic process.

  • Zinke said he made the decision because Florida is "unique" and heavily tourism-reliant. Nonetheless, critics yesterday were quick to allege political motives, given that Scott is weighing a Senate run against Democrat Bill Nelson, who called it a "political stunt" to aid the governor, via Twitter.

Immediate reaction from other states: Already, multiple Democratic governors and officials have called for similar concessions.

  • “We’d like a word in Virginia,” says the state’s Democratic Governor-elect Ralph Northam to Zinke via Twitter.
  • “Where do we sign up for a waiver,” tweeted New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo.
  • California Attorney General Xavier Becerra also tweeted that under Zinke’s rationale for removing Florida, his state’s coast also should be removed.

One big question that emerged last night is whether the immediate concession to Scott could create any legal headaches once the plan is finalized in a year or so and inevitable litigation by drilling opponents follows.

The answer, based on some immediate reactions, is yes.

  • In a short note Wednesday morning, the firm Height Securities writes:
“Unfortunately for Zinke, his process needs to be significantly more transparent if his offshore leasing plan is to have any chance of advancing and surviving the inevitable legal challenges.”
  • David Hayes, who runs the State Energy & Environmental Impact Center at NYU and was Obama's deputy secretary of Interior, says:
“Zinke’s summary dismissal of Florida from the draft offshore proposal should have his lawyers cringing. It smacks of an impulsive, undisciplined, arbitrary process.”
  • Hayes, whose group helps state attorneys general opposing Trump administration regulatory policies, notes that the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act dictates that decisions on where to lease should be "informed by broad-based public input and a thorough environmental review. "
"Obviously, none of that happened here," he says.
  • Southern California Democratic Rep. Ted Lieu, an attorney who opposes the proposal to allow new Pacific coast exploration, says via Twitter that Interior's quick removal of Florida, but not California, "violates the legal standard of arbitrary and capricious agency action."

What's next: Litigation was expected to happen regardless once the plan is complete, and the detailed bureaucratic process gives Interior a way to add a more refined defense of the Florida decision.

But the episode underscores the tricky politics of the topic, and looking forward, coastal officials from both parties who oppose drilling and whose states have lots of tourism can say they deserve the same treatment.

Editor's note: This story has been updated with further news.

Go deeper

4 hours ago - World

Myanmar military fires UN ambassador after anti-coup speech

Photo: Peerapon Boonyakiat/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Myanmar's military regime on Saturday fired the country's Ambassador to the United Nations, Kyaw Moe Tun, a day after he gave a pro-democracy speech asking UN member nations to publicly condemn the Feb. 1 coup, The New York Times reports.

Details: State television said the ambassador had "betrayed the country and spoken for an unofficial organization which doesn’t represent the country and had abused the power and responsibilities of an ambassador."

56 mins ago - Axios on HBO

Preview: "Axios on HBO" interviews White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond

On the next episode of "Axios on HBO," Axios co-founder Mike Allen interviews White House Senior Advisor Cedric Richmond.

  • Catch the full interview and much more on Sunday, February 28 at 6 pm. ET/PT on all HBO platforms.
2 hours ago - World

Italy tightens COVID restrictions as experts warn of growing prevalence of variants

Health workers prepare vaccine doses in Iseo, Italy. Photo: Stefano Nicoli/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Italy on Saturday announced it was tightening restrictions in five of the country's 20 regions in an effort curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Driving the news: The announcement comes as health experts and scientists warn of the more transmissible coronavirus variants, per Reuters.