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Drill, Baby, Drill: How Mica and Other Florida Republicans Rejected Everglades Protection

| February 19, 2012

florida everglades offshore drilling oil prospecting exxon mobil bp

A great place for a drilling platform.

Last Thursday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would compel the federal Bureau of Land Management to lease potentially up to half a million acres of federal land in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming to oil companies to “research” and explore oil shale and tar sands development, two largely unproven or prohibitive technologies. A wind production tax credit, meanwhile, failed to pass the House.

Canada is developing tar sands at immense environmental and energy costs: it takes burning a barrel of oil to produce three barrels of oil from tar sands (so marketable production is two barrels for every three produced). Tar sands production in Canada consumes enough energy to heat nearly all the homes in the country. Oil shale has never been produced effectively despite a century of experimenting because, as Elizabeth Kolbert described it in an article on synthetic fuels for The New Yorker, it “involves basically rewriting genealogical history.” That history also involves bleak experiments by Exxon Mobil that resulted in mass layoffs.

Yet the oil shale and tar sands experiment is tied to the Republican leadership’s transportation bill, crafted out of the committee John Mica chairs, and calling for $260 billion in spending over the next 10 years–with some of that revenue supposed to be generated by new oil shale leases. But the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office’s analysis of the transportation bill concludes that only $100,000 can be expected from leasing public land to oil companies for oil shale, and that should the Republican plan be adopted, the Transportation Trust Fund would have a $78 billion deficit in 10 years.

Nevertheless, the House passed the oil shale and tar sands bill on a largely party-line vote of 237-187, including the votes of seven of Florida’s representatives, all of them Republican: Ander Crenshaw, Clifford Stearns, John Mica, Dan Webster, Dennis Ross, Bill Posey and Thomas Rooney.

Seventeen of Florida’s representatives voted against, including 11 Republicans, because the bill is part of a broader plan that opens more future public land and waters to exploration, including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, offshore in the Atlantic and the Pacific, and the Gulf of Mexico, and because it does not explicitly protect such places as the Everglades.

During debate over the bill, Kathy Castor, D-Fla., proposed an amendment that would have done just that: it would have prevented drilling within 5 miles of any of the Great Lakes or the Everglades. The amendment failed on a 241-176 vote, with 17 of Florida’s House members, including Mica and Sandy Adams, rejecting it.

Below is the speech Castor delivered when she introduced her amendment. The speech sums up the numbers and the ideological divide over the issue.

The Republican leadership’s transportation package is a dead end. It is being panned by businesses, Democrats and Republicans alike. What we will vote on next is the Republican funding portion of the package and it is a little bit different.

See, this is a special story. In fact, it is a love story, the love story of a breathtaking display of affection of Big Oil by the Republican party. The bill is a special Valentine, a love letter of the Republicans’ undying devotion to Big Oil. No others compare.

Kathy Castor

The problem is that, with the Republican congressional leaders’ blind passion for Big Oil, they correspondingly demonstrate an animosity to American families and businesses. See, it’s been less than 2 years since the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster, and the Republicans in Congress now propose to drill for oil just about anywhere.

Have safety measures been adopted by this Congress? No. Do they recognize that there are special places across America that are not appropriate for oil drilling? Not really.

For example, the bill would allow drilling right off of the beaches of Florida. Florida’s tourism industry, meanwhile, employs more than 1 million people. Tourism and fishing are multibillion-dollar industries. Drilling closer to our shores puts those jobs at risk. Yet that’s what the Republicans propose here. And for what? The CBO says that if you drill off the coast of Florida, that will generate $100 million. Billion dollars in industry and tourism and fishing or $100 million?

BP decimated the gulf coast and caused billions of dollars of damage to our economy and our environment. The disaster is estimated to have cost the State of Florida, alone, $2.2 billion and almost 40,000 jobs.

he Republican love letter to Big Oil could be the kiss of death for small businesses, hotels, motels, shrimpers, fishermen, and families that rely on tourism, and that’s just in the State of Florida. This bill puts too many jobs at risk in a misguided, love-struck attempt to allow Big Oil to drill just about anywhere, including unique and sensitive areas all across America.

Republican leadership has made it abundantly clear they are willing to sell America to the highest bidder. Well, I’m here to say America is not for sale.

Is nothing sacred in this country anymore? Is nothing off limits? How about Mount Vernon, George Washington’s home? Would we drill there if Big Oil could make a few bucks? How about Gettysburg National Battlefield? I hear there may be some natural gas nearby. Why not check Grandma and Grandpa’s backyard. You’re already trying to take away their Medicare, so why stop there?

There are places in America that are not for sale and should be protected, and my amendment provides a test. Here’s the test:

I pick two special areas to put to the test in this Congress. My amendment will prevent drilling within 5 miles of any of the Great Lakes or the Everglades.

Now, don’t get me wrong, we must have robust domestic oil production–in fact, that is happening now. We are currently producing in America at higher levels than ever before. We have more domestic production than we import. Last year, U.S. crude oil production reached its highest level since 2003. And the Obama administration has offered and continues to offer millions of acres of public lands and Federal waters for oil and gas exploration and production.

In 2010, the Department of the Interior offered 37 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico for oil and gas exploration, but the oil companies have only tapped 2.4 million acres. So why are we going to open up even more public lands for drilling when we haven’t even used one-fifteenth of what’s available? It’s a love story. It’s a love story.

Last year, although Exxon made $41 billion, BP made over $25 billion, the Republicans saw to it that American taxpayers chipped in another $10 billion from 2002 to 2008.

Well, enough is enough. We are not going to turn the Great Lakes into the “Okay Lakes,” and we’re not going to turn the Everglades into the “Neverglades.” The Great Lakes and Everglades are not just environmental treasures; they are the lifeblood of our local economies. The Great Lakes and Everglades employ many Americans who work in tourism, lodging, fishing, and ecological industries.

I urge my colleagues not to play an enabling role in this tawdry love affair between most Republicans in Congress and Big Oil.

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24 Responses for “Drill, Baby, Drill: How Mica and Other Florida Republicans Rejected Everglades Protection”

  1. Linda says:

    Do you have a bill number, Flagler Live? In order to see what was in this bill, we will need that. This is an area where the facts are often not quite what they seem.

    • FlaglerLive says:

      The link in the first line takes you to the bill and plenty of background.

      • Linda says:

        Would encourage everyone to go to the site above which will show you the text of this bill. Open Congress is a great site. You can read summaries, pros and cons, votes, and find out exactly which groups are opposed and in support of legislation.

        AND you can even use the site to contact your representative directly and let him/her know how you feel.

        Recommend you read this. Also recommend that you google shale exploration and do some reading.

        Most people are not aware that many drill sites in the gulf are tied up in lawsuits with environmentalists and have been for years. Many are also not aware that just about every major country in the world drills right off our coastline. They can drill, we cannot. Our government will not allow it.

        There is no reason for the price of gas to be going up, but it is. We need to find our own energy sources right here in this country. We haven’t had a comprehensive energy policy in this country since the US Dept. of Energy was established in the 70’s.

        It’s time to get started. We need to be producing our own energy, not buying it from others.

        • Anonymous says:

          You people that hate oil and coal;please feel free to get warm in the winter and cool in the summer
          with Solyndra. Me I’ll take coal and natural gas.

        • Anonymous says:

          How about we use cleaner fuels?

          Gas should be astronomical …. Then we would consume less..

          • Oneofthe10%whovoted says:

            Do you think families here can consume less? We shouldn’t have to rely on other countries for our resources.

  2. Sad Times says:

    Well… there they go again….. no love for our land…. only a love of money by the Republicans.
    So what….appears to be their attitude about the beautiful parks and lands in the United States…. greed keeps winning out over the protection of our land for our children and our children’s children.

  3. Angela Smith via Facebook says:

    Big Oil will do to the Everglades and the Great Lakes what they did to the Gulf of Mexico, and when the damage is done, who will pay for the cleanup?

  4. Thad says:

    Florida has a 9 mile state waters limit. TGhe feds can not force drlg in statewaters. So how is drlg to be just off the beaches? Is the Everglades a federal wild life area or reserve or does it belong to the state? GranMa and GranPa’s back yard no way that is private property. The only placxes the feds can allow drlg is federal water and federal lands. State land and private land the fed can’t touch. Fine that you are anti-drlg but you need to do a little research on the laws concerning where the feds can and can’t give permission to drl. Florida is still using oil from other places and letting those places take the chances. The day Florida become oil use free then can cry “NO drilling” with out being hypocrites.

    [Correction: Florida’s state waters extend 9 miles only in the Gulf of Mexico. The limit is 3 miles in the Atlantic.–FL]

  5. Doug Chozianin says:

    As gas prices rise, our standard of living declines.

    Look at California… Gas prices are over $4 per gallon and heading toward $5 (almost triple the cost since Obama took office – in January 2009 gas was approximately $1.61 per gallon). The California economy is a wreck. Watch for municipal bankruptcies and lost municipal worker pensions.

    Also, be prepared for higher food prices, higher public transportation costs and higher electric bills.

    Until we can rely on “green energy” for our energy needs, we need oil. (Try running a refrigerator on a solar panel, especially at night or on a cloudy day.)

    • Linda says:

      Doug, my sister in CA is a retiree and cannot afford to drive her car anywhere because of the high cost of fuel in her state. In the winter she sits in one room and uses a wood fireplace because she can afford her utility bills. She may as well be living in a cave somewhere.

      This is what your government has planned for us all. They don’t care if we have affordable energy as long as companies are making profits.

      I’ll trust an oil company a lot more than I’ll trust a utility company.

      We’ve got to have oil, we can’t live without it. And we need to be exploring all forms of energy. The time for talking is over.

  6. palmcoaster says:

    @Doug this is what conservatives advocate while defending the right to trade oil futures contracts with not collateral in Wall Street. Is not Iran-Israel crisis or the OPEC that is BS . Is the Wall Street Ninex trading here and in London of paper oil future trades and until Obama cuts the legs of these traders by demanding collateral on the billions on contracts futures traded, we will continuo being gouged while the oil barons keep add more billions on their Caiman Islands and other worldwide accounts. We are just being gouged with total impunity!!

    • Linda says:

      Palmcoaster, you re correct about the speculation but wrong to blame that on conservatives. Gas was $1.30 a gallon when Bush left office. Obama is not going to cut the legs of the very source of his campaign contributions. In a battle against Wall Street, Congress and the administration, the people will lose.

      My solution? Vote them all out. I don’t give a damn whether you are a Democrat or a Republican, liberal or conservative. This is an issue which is driving American families into poverty and it must stop.

      We give billions to countries like Brazil for oil and are not allowed to drill here? This president has closed off more drilling than he has opened. Send a message to Washington. Vote them all out.

  7. snapperhead says:

    increased drilling doesn’t lead to lower prices. we now export more oil than we import. oil is a global commodity and sold to the highest bidder. why would oil companies sell the US a barrel of oil for $90 if China and India will pay more. capitalism has no nationality or social responsibility…it’s about profit and nothing else. oil companies couldn’t care less about your “pain at the pump”….someone else will buy it if you don’t.

    • Layla says:

      Why are we importing any oil at all? Capitalism is not supposed to have a nationality or social responsibility. It is intended to grow the economy, make money, create jobs, commerce for people.

      Why are we importing oil?

  8. palmcoaster says:

    Snapperhead correct!. They are pumping out our non renewable resource aka oil, from the Gulf and everywhere making a mess of our environment “for export aka greedy profits”. They steal our oil make a mess and contaminate our environment with total impunity and gouge us at the pump….And you Linda will trust more these oil barons than the utilities..? none are good. Then if Obama has to cut the legs of his campaign contributors what about the ones of Sheldon and company helping Gringrich, cut the Koche’s and other billionaires helping Santorum and Romney. Can you see these politicians from both parties are all funded by special interest? And we the little guys in the 99% endure the back lash.
    I am sorry for your aunt in CA living her elderly years on tight funds, but fighting with each other like idiots that is exactly what these politicians and special interest benefit from, won’t help her and others.
    When I said “conservatives” I did not mean Bush, I was referring to the one’s today in congress and senate opposed to put limits on the oil futures trades by current speculators in Wall Street.
    Anyway in 1983 is when Ronald Regan approved the oil to be traded as a commodity for the first time and that itself was the biggest manipulation ever made pressured by the oil companies and Wall Street… why we are being gouged today, while creates devastating inflation and drives some of our American Companies to bankruptcy, like our airlines and many others.

    • Linda says:

      [Linda, please bunch up your comments and address them to each commenter individually within the same comment. Thanks.–FL]

      The realitive in California is my sister. Their utility prices are through the roof out there.

      Palmcoaster, the entire Congress has to go. If people would show up and vote on a regular basis, these people wouldn’t spend a lifetime in Congress.

      How do you do that? How do you make them care enough to show up to vote? We get stuck with the same elected officials year after year because people don’t think their vote counts. It is those who are staying home and won’t participate who are killing our ability to vote these politicians out, both sides.

      If everyone registers to vote and shows up at each election, out they go. I have seen it happen. Pretty exciting.

      If we could flip the Congress for a couple of elections, some of this would end. No politician should ever serve more than a couple of terms in my view.

      Angela Smith: Big Oil has been drilling in the gulf and off the California coast for decades very safely. Do you want to ban ships as well, in case we have a spill?

      Sad Times: That’s just mean and not true. Last time I looked, greed didn’t have a political affiliation. There is plenty of it to go around.

  9. rusty says:

    ive been born and raised in south Fla. ft laud keep selling land off in the marsh lands of the the everglades. the goverment. stped it because if it was not for the everglades their would not be any water for all those homes. they made the state take back the the land and re fund the money. is more important to have cheap gas or have water for r kids. maybe the best thing for this country is to have this drug ( oil) be 5:oo d0llars a gallon or we will never get off it and become energy independent. All we keep on doing is giving our money to the people who want to kill us. WE as a nation have be come the biggest supporters of teurism. the everglades is stunningly beutiful. and gives south fl. their water. Could u imagen a oil spill like the gulf, we would loose the water supply for all of south Fla. and loose all those protected anamals for ever

  10. jespo says:

    Normaly I would be against more oil drilling due to environmental concerns. Clean up methods are abysmal sometimes and the impact is so negative on the ecology effected. However, we are at a crux concerning our continued interests in the middle east. We need a comprehensive program which allows oil drilling at home but also paired with a true recognition for alternative cleaner energy sources. The two must go hand in hand; purchasing oil from the middle east is madness, but so would drilling at home without a plan to stop that as well.

    I agree that clean energy sources are simply not up to speed, but they would be if we put our country’s might behind them. I still believe that this is the country that can do anything if it works at something. I don’t believe in the impossible.

  11. Ed says:

    We as Americans have been the World Police for too long. It’s time we take a look at America and take a moratorium in helping other countries. Why does America still give money to the middle east countries? Why do we have an oil shortage? Why is America still fighting everyone’s war? Why is an American oil company building an oil treatment plant in Brazil and non here in the U.S.? Why are we not attempting to use our oil in the Dakotas which will outlast the middle east? Why was the electric car killed in the 70’s? This is all about money (and it’s the politicians making it) and the only way this will change is if the American public get out an vote. We have the oil, the resources, the know how, but they want a quick cheap buck off others, then use our oil. Look closely, the oil companies are racking in the most profits ever and it’s on our backs. They say oil shortage and we pay, they say trouble in the middle east and we pay, they say oil will rise and we pay! Any thing that they say is subject to increasing oil prices. What are our representatives doing for us? They don’t have to, since we don’t vote. Wake up America, we are sleeping and they think we are stupid. We need to make America first and make it the greatest country again, but not with out your voice.
    Yes, we can drill for oil we have the know how to prevent spills, damage to land, damage to animals. It’s just cheaper in these third world countries and they make more money. Get out there and vote, show them you won’t take it anymore. Last thing I will ask. Why was it that the inventor of the water to hydrogen vehicle killed? You guessed it. Greed! Money! And non for you or me.

  12. palmcoaster says:

    @Ed, very revealing and realistic information in your outstanding post !
    I totally missed Mr Meyers news in the 90’s about his revolutionary invention and his premature death. A sinister end to say the least. I always learn something new in FlaglerLive. Thank you.

  13. palmcoaster says:

    I am not a fan of Cramer but I agree that even he sees the reality of why we are being gouged at the pump. Also these oil companies are lobbying to benefit the conservative agenda against Obama with these gas prices in a 2012 election year.

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