The use of private planes to travel was defended by Ryan Zinke, the U.S. Interior Secretary. Speaking on Tuesday, Zink was defiant and challenged the accusations of sumptuous spending, while also adding that he was tired of the ‘insults’ and ‘innuendos’.
Details recently have leaked of helicopters and charter planes being used by Zinke, which have not been well received by the people. Apart from that, receipts have been released, of nearly $130,000 being spent on doors that were installed in his office. This comes at a time when budget cuts have been proposed by the department, as well as fees being increased at national parks of the country.
Senator Maria Cantwell, the top Democrat on the Senate Energy Committee, questioned Zinke on his spending in a Senate committee. Zinke responded to the questions, by accusing her of misleading the committee and added that he resented the fact that she had insulted him. He went on to deny that he ever took a private jet, while claiming that it was ‘innuendo’ to suggest he did, when he had been taking charter propeller flights. According to him, travelling expenditure was also quite high when his Democratic predecessor, Sally Jewell held the post. He said this was what the job required, as Jewell took helicopters and private charter planes, travelling to remote parts of the country.
The committee had gathered for a hearing concerning the Interior Department’s Budget of 2019. The senators also pointed out Zinke for the expansion of offshore oil drilling, raising the visitor fees in national parks, and the reduction in royalty rates paid by the oil and gas company to the U.S. government, in order to encourage more production.
Nearly a third of the royalty rate for offshore was reduced, as it was brought down to 12.5 percent, as the senators raised the question whether the proposal had been adequately analyzed by the Interior Department. The response from Zinke was that they had not yet reached a decision, as the data they had so far was inconclusive. He said that it was understandable that some of them disagreed, but the opposite could also be argued.
The technological advances have resulted in an increase in the amount of oil produced in the United States, though that increase has usually been on private, and not federal, lands.
Senator John Kennedy, a Republican from Louisiana, also had questions for Zinke, as he highlighted that the impact the royalty cut has had on the Gulf Coast states. The revenue from the royalty is used to fund the coastal restoration projects in those states. Louisiana were given only half of the $175 million of royalties, after powerful hurricanes were prominent in the state last October.
At least a dozen states have also cried foul of a proposal made by Zinke, which outlines the use of federal waters for the purpose of drilling from 2019 to 2024. The proposal prompted further questioning from the senators, as Democratic and Republican lawmakers alike are opposed to it.