On October 2, 2017, DOI’s Inspector General announced it was opening an investigation into Secretary Ryan Zinke following his unethical use of government planes for taxpayer-funded travel, including a trip to his hometown. American Oversight is conducting a broader investigation into Zinke’s overall management of DOI and questionable behavior while serving as secretary for the department.
On behalf of Western Values project, American Oversight is also investigating any role that Lolita Zinke, the wife of Secretary Zinke, may be playing at DOI. Ms. Zinke has reportedly joined her husband on official travel and has an unusually large presence that the department, including sending emails related to government business and participating in government meetings.
On April 28, 2017, President Trump signed an order allowing for the expansion of coastal areas available for offshore drilling. Then on January 4, 2018, Zinke announced its plans for drilling in all U.S. coastal areas including more than a billion acres in the Arctic, Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico, according to the New York Times.
This included areas off the coast of Florida and Florida’s governor, Rick Scott, opposed this decision. Five days later, Zinke tweeted that there Florida would no longer be included in the new plans for offshore oil and gas drilling.
— Secretary Ryan Zinke (@SecretaryZinke) January 9, 2018
Questions have been raised about Zinke’s motive to exempt Florida from this decision, as many other governors from different states also objected to the order – and subsequent news reports have suggested that the White House did not necessarily approve of Zinke’s Florida announcement. American Oversight seeks to find out what influenced this decision and how Interior is determining where offshore drilling is going to take place.