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Banning Near-Shore Oil Drilling for Good in Florida: Proposed Constitutional Amendment Is Filed

| August 31, 2011

They do it in california. Florida lawmakers want to make sure they don't do it in Florida.

A Tampa Democrat has filed a Senate version of proposed constitutional amendment to ban oil drilling within about 10 miles of Florida’s coastline.

The proposed amendment (SJR 90), filed Tuesday by Sen. Arthenia Joyner, matches a House version (HJR 23) filed earlier this year by Rep. Rick Kriseman, D-St. Petersburg. It would ask voters to put into the constitution a ban on exploration, drilling, extraction or production of oil in Florida waters.

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“There are people still suffering from the big spill,” Joyner said Wednesday. “Do you want to expose Florida to the possibility of another spill – but closer to our shore? I just can’t believe people want to bring it that close, after seeing what happens when it’s farther out.

“To open up our shoreline to the possibility of oil is ludicrous,” Joyner said.

The move, which would need three-fifths approval of both chambers to get the proposal before voters, comes as backers of drilling have begun again raising the prospect of new exploration for both oil and gas to combat high energy prices, as well as and reducing American dependence on foreign sources of energy.

Just over a year after the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, largest oil spill in the history of the United States, Joyner said the push for drilling is regaining strength. She pointed to suggestion this week by Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmann to consider new drilling in the eastern Gulf and, possibly in the Everglades, if it can be done safely. When Bachmann brought it up at a South Florida campaign stop, she was greeted by calls of “Drill Baby, Drill.”

“It seems like we need it now more than ever,” Joyner said of a constitutional ban.

Senate President Mike Haridopolos has said he has no intention of pushing for new drilling in Florida waters this year. Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, was a backer of a bill in 2010 that would have removed a moratorium on drilling in Florida waters, but changed his stance after the BP oil spill began in April of that year. Since then, Haridopolos has said there is a need for new drilling in American waters, but has given assurances that Florida waters – which extend about 10 miles in the Gulf, and closer in the Atlantic – would remain off the agenda in the coming year.

The moratorium on drilling in Florida waters remains, but nothing would prevent lawmakers from lifting it, which is the impetus for the proposed constitutional ban. Then-Gov. Charlie Crist proposed such a ban in the wake of the spill, but the House refused to take it up.

Crist is now, along with former Democratic gubernatorial candidate Alex Sink, a backer of another push to get the idea before voters, a citizen initiative being pushed by a group called Save Our Seas, Beaches and Shores.

That group is collecting signatures to try to get the issue on the ballot. Its leader, Manley Fuller, conceded Wednesday that it doesn’t look like the grassroots group, which relies heavily on volunteers, will be able to hit its mark in time for the 2012 ballot.

“It would be extremely difficult, practically speaking, for us to make the ballot,” Fuller said. “It’s been a mom and pop operation. We’re looking for a major supporter, a major benefactor. We need some people to write some checks.

“It would be great if the Legislature would put it on the ballot,” Fuller said. “That would be wonderful.”

Gov. Rick Scott, who wouldn’t have a say because proposed amendments passed by lawmakers go straight to the ballot without the governor’s approval, has recently said he supports additional drilling if it can be shown there’s no chance of a major spill, but he hasn’t been convinced of that yet.

Opponents of drilling fear the debate over whether to allow it in Florida waters goes beyond the actual question of whether to let new exploration begin in the area. They point to an acknowledgement last year by North Dakota Sen. Byron Dorgan, a Republican backer of drilling, that the issue is in part about trying to expand drilling farther out in the Gulf, in federal waters.

Opposition to drilling in federal waters over environmental concerns would carry less weight, Dorgan has said, if Florida lawmakers were to approve drilling even closer to shore.

Another question remains how much oil and gas would be produced by new drilling. In the 1970s and ’80s, about 40 exploratory wells were drilled in the Gulf from Pensacola to Tampa Bay. Little oil was produced, and what was found was a low-grade crude – but the drilling did find large reserves of natural gas.

Backers of drilling generally have said that in the wake of the BP spill last year, the likelihood of another similar spill is greatly reduced. The Obama administration, which backs new drilling in federal waters in parts of the Gulf, said that just last week, when it approved the sale of new oil and gas leases in the Gulf.

“Since Deepwater Horizon, we have strengthened oversight at every stage of the oil and gas development process, including deepwater drilling safety, subsea blowout containment, and spill response capability,” Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said last week. Those leases, however, will be in the western Gulf, nearer Louisiana.

Joyner said the argument is different for Florida, where beaches are so important to the economy.

“Florida is a natural tourist attraction – why would you do something that has the potential of decimating something people come from all over the world for, it’s beautiful beaches?”

–David Royce, News Service of Florida

8 Responses for “Banning Near-Shore Oil Drilling for Good in Florida: Proposed Constitutional Amendment Is Filed”

  1. palmcoaster says:

    Banning will get my approval vote. As much of the oil that these multinationals extract, while polluting our coastal ecosystems, is being exported with total decontrol. We don’t need this unmonitored drilling is like having the fox guarding the hens pen. If Venezuela is selling oil at 5 dollars/barrel to China that turns around and sell it to the Wall Street investors so they can gouge us…then why don’t we buy it instead other than sparring with dude Chavez forever. Use that guy and his oil to our benefit other than benefiting Wall Street and their trading thieves here and in London.

  2. Layla says:

    Yes, our beaches are important to us, as is the wildlife here. But people and jobs are important as well. I will not support banning drilling. Take a look at the number of wells in already in place in the gulf:

    Think you can make them go away? Most of them now belong to other countries….Venezuela, Russia, China to name a few.

    We are paying Venezuela billions to promote drilling. Meanwhile, we have lost over 200,000 jobs in the Gulf due to the bans imposed by this administration. Why are we paying them to drill here but we can’t? What is the sense in that?

    These countries have the legal right to be in international waters. They will continue to gouge us for oil. We need to be drilling as well as IMPLEMENTING new energy strategies in this country.

    For example: Why are new homes, buildings NOT being built with solor power? We’ve been fighting about this since the Carter administration and we still haven’t accomplished anything other than to build a huge lobbying industry to keep our politicians in office. ?????????????????

  3. palmcoaster says:

    Lyla a solar system for a typical family of four house will cost around 40,000 plus and that is the reason why solar can’t yet be demanded in new housing, unless a millionaires one if the owner agrees. Our government should get serious about solar and plan to make it more affordable some how.
    The drilling ban will not be in international waters as is mostly in our national coastal waters. The Gulf and other contaminations by oil companies do not only affect our beaches and wildlife also affect our potable underground waters and our soil and rivers adjacent to the coastal contamination. Affects the fish and shellfish we consume and the lively hoods of millions of Americans that do not work those oil rigs

  4. JR says:

    Beyond the jobs — and the necessary, yes necessary, energy — we use oil for numerous products, you can’t pave roadways with the byproducts of wind-farms. As for the shoreline, many of the problems with the Deepwater Horizon spill resulted from the fact that it was so far from shore. Where the seabed is a mile below the surface. The first methods used to try to cap the well were proven methods — proven in shallower water. Perhaps if the Deepwater Horizon had been off the shore of Florida, or Louisiana, or Mississippi, or Texas, then well would have been capped in days, not months.

  5. Layla says:

    Palmcoaster: Why does solar energy cost so much? Seems the logical step in construction. Everything costs too much.

    I also understand about the drilling ban and the hazards, but I trust our own companies to have stronger regulations than I do foreign governments which we have no control over.

    I lived in Southern California for many years. Lots of drilling there and no accidents. I think it can be done safely, but my point was that the wells are already there, in the gulf. Thousands of them. I’d rather have our own government screening them, inspecting them than not.

    The same thing is true of ships. Our regulations are much stronger than those of foreign ships. We must stay involved in order to clean it up, and to keep it clean.

    To me, there is an opportunity here for thousands of jobs and to create technologies which we can export to other countries to guarantee clean oceans.

    I think that not participating leaves us at the mercy of others. I would rather see us lead.

  6. palmcoaster says:

    I believe that the greedy attitude promoted for the “make more money” and total deregulation of multinational oil giants is what causes these spills.
    They just don’t care enough as is more profitable this way. Spill after spill and over 60 years of the same old oil drilling technology still used today.
    Several approximate cost and applications of solar systems offered for the home on different locations and the potential energy saving rebates. Is quiet expensive even after the rebate. Takes well over 12 years of saving and discounting on your local power house bills to pay for it. Just a water heater alone is over 5,250 cost. If we didn’t have this economic crisis I was going to install one at home hoping will be paid off before I am gone. By now I installed a solar tube light in my kitchen that provides natural light all day long. As I have a ceramic tile roof cost me double at 1,250, but is worth as I have this beautiful natural light in my kitchen all day long that rest my over 60 years old eyes and save in light bulbs life and energy. I am planning to get a solar attic fan soon that we can install ourselves.The least expensive I found with Rende roofing. Also I realized that if I leave my garage attic stairs slightly opened the draft created from the garage into the attic cools it enough and have lowered significantly my FPG bill. I use the bug preventer 4 months effect strips hanging one in my garage and two in different areas of my large attic and also does wonders by keeping all crawling or flying insects from my garage, attic and the house overhung’s outside. Solar systems links next:

  7. roughneck says:

    Who cares drill, baby drill. There r no jobs here in florida any way. I was born n raised here n have to fly to Colorado just to clock in(drilling rigs). I would love to have a job closer to home.

  8. palmcoaster says:

    I am sick and tired of being gouged at the pump by these oil barons when a barrel of oil is sold by countries like Venezuela as low a 5 bucks a barrel…They stick it to you as well, roughneck as you do not get paid enough either, for your risk in those rigs. Your employers are very greedy. When our politicians are going to stop these gouging at the pump…? Pretty soon people will have to get a loan to pay for gas to visit Grandma and Grandpa. For worst as this greed is not enough John Mica head of the federal transportation committee, unfortunately the Rep that do not Rep…resent us, is proposing tolls in federal highways…that do not have any right now, as well. I just spent $110 in gas r/t to Miami from here and ….with not tolls on I95 yet fortunately. Please all here stop Mica on his new venture demanding more $$ from us…or lets vote him out! More tolls rotten idea!

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