‘The future is bright,’ Zinke tells industry group

Source: Kelsey Brugger, E&E News reporter • Posted: Thursday, October 18, 2018

Two minutes into Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s enthusiastic speech on offshore wind energy yesterday, a protester holding a “Fire Zinke” sign burst into the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill conference room to declare that the fifth-generation Montanan should be fired.

Zinke appeared unfazed about accusations about Bears Ears National Monument and climate change that were drowned out by groans from the audience.

“Isn’t America great?” he asked. Attendees of the American Wind Energy Association conference booed the protester, later identified as with Friends of the Earth, who was swiftly ushered out.

And Zinke got back to talking up wind.

“I am bullish on wind,” said Zinke, who was standing in front of a backdrop of an offshore turbine and an American flag. “My job is to make sure the future of wind is developed. The future is bright.”

He noted recent offshore wind proposals off the coasts of Massachusetts — 90,000 acres, he said — and California. He said he gets along well with Democratic California Gov. Jerry Brown. “Some things are not Republican or Democrat. A lot of things are red, white and blue,” he said.

He then switched to his plans to reorganize the Interior Department.

“The president said one federal decision,” he said. “Wouldn’t it be nice if you were an industry and not have to worry about different decisions from Fish and Wildlife, a different decision from [the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management]? … Your federal government is actually going to work together. Because industry dollars are important. I get it. … But having arbitrary rules in place serves no one.”

He added, “Under the current organization, you are likely to have multiple biological opinions independently produced by different bureaus with different leadership with different missions in different regions.”

At a conservation roundtable in Washington earlier this week, Zinke told a group of about 20 conservation and sportsmen groups that the reorganization would officially occur on July 1, 2019, according to people who attended the meeting.

As for wind, Zinke said yesterday, “On the east and west coast we are starting virtually from a blank slate. The future is a lot of [people] in this room. My job is to make sure the government is part of the future.”