WASHINGTON — Facing mounting pressure from fellow Republicans who see little constituent support for drilling off the Atlantic Coast, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke could be backpedaling on the Trump administration’s initial plans to expand the program, Republican lawmakers said.

In a meeting with affected coastal Republican representatives last week, Zinke reaffirmed an exemption from the drilling for Florida, hinted to New Jersey officials their state was likely to be spared and left a Virginia congressman optimistic the policy would be overturned for his state, too. And Zinke said he’d travel to South Carolina to get a better sense of that state’s concerns as well.

If Zinke carves out exceptions for all these states, the idea of Atlantic offshore drilling could be dead.

The new policy had seemed clear in early January, when Zinke, at the White House’s behest, said he would expand drilling all along the Atlantic. Then he gave an exemption to Florida, and other states – many of which have Republican-dominated congressional delegations – began demanding similar treatment.

Seeking to clean up a bureaucratic mess, Zinke has since been visiting Capitol Hill and speaking with governors who want carve-outs. After a Feb. 27 meeting Zinke convened on Capitol Hill with East Coast Republican representatives, Interior spokeswoman Heather Swift said her boss was “happy to meet with coastal representatives to discuss the offshore plan.”

While every state that wants an exemption is arguing its circumstances are special, they all share similarities that would make it difficult for Zinke to pull out of one locality but not another and still maintain credibility.

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