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Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke giving a speech. Photo: George Frey/Getty Images

Let's get caught up on the latest developments after the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke announced Tuesday evening that he's yanking Florida from the agency's new plan to massively expand coastal areas offered for oil-and-gas leasing.

Not normal: Offshore leasing policy is usually the stuff of painstaking detail, so a big, abrupt policy shift made without any accompanying documents has left confusion in its wake.

What we're hearing: Oil and gas industry sources I spoke with yesterday were scrambling to learn what precisely Zinke meant when he abruptly said he was "removing Florida from any consideration for any new oil and gas platforms."

  • Interior's PR shop has said that this means the entire eastern Gulf of Mexico, but the department has not provided any details or maps to describe the agreement, and nobody I've spoken with has a clear picture of the precise scope.
  • Similarly, it's not clear how far up the Atlantic Coast the agreement extends. Details matter here, because what are known as outer continental shelf "planning areas" don't line up neatly with state borders.

Criticism: Based on what they do know about it, major oil-and-gas industry lobbying groups attacked the move. The Hill has more on that here.

Pressure: My colleague Khorri Atkinson reports on the growing numberof Atlantic Coast governors from both parties who are ramping up their push for exemptions in the wake of Florida Gov. Rick Scott's deal with Zinke.

  • That's in addition to calls from Pacific Coast governors for the same thing.
  • Zinke told The Washington Post on Wednesday that "I will no doubt talk to every governor. It doesn’t matter to me whether you’re Republican or Democrat."

ICYMI: Yesterday we explored how the Florida announcement could create legal problems for Interior's proposed 2019-2024 offshore leasing plan.

Go deeper

Dan Primack, author of Pro Rata
7 mins ago - Economy & Business

Merger Monday has been overrun by SPACs

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Five companies this morning announced plans to go public via reverse mergers with SPACs, at an aggregate market value of more than $15 billion. And there might be even more by the time you read this.

The bottom line: SPAC merger activity hasn't peaked. If anything, it's just getting started.

Moderna says vaccine appears to protect against new COVID-19 variants

Photo: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Moderna's COVID-19 vaccine is effective against new variants of the virus that first appeared in the U.K. and in South Africa, the company announced on Monday.

Yes, but: The vaccine was as effective against the strain from U.K., but saw a six-fold reduction in antibodies against the South Africa variant. Even still, the neutralizing antibodies generated by the vaccine "remain above levels that are expected to be protective," according to the company.

Dave Lawler, author of World
Updated 1 hour ago - World

Xi Jinping warns against "new cold war" in Davos speech

Chinese President Xi Jinping. Photo: Wang Zhao - Pool/Getty Images

Chinese President Xi Jinping warned that a "new cold war" could turn hot, and must be avoided, in a speech on Monday at World Economic Forum’s virtual “Davos Agenda” conference.

Why it matters: Xi didn't refer directly to U.S.-China tensions, but the subtext was clear. These were his first remarks to an international audience since the inauguration of President Biden, whose administration has already concurred with Donald Trump's determination that China is committing "genocide" against Uyghur Muslims, and issued a warning about China's aggression toward Taiwan.