BY CHRIS GOMES
Offshore drilling has always been an issue of concern for coastal areas, especially in the Sunshine State.
Lawmakers at all levels of government have attempted to open the area for oil and natural gas development, a move critics argue will harm the fishing and tourism industries. Those opposed to offshore drilling point to the damage caused by the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill, one of the deadliest that has occurred in recent years.
The 2010 British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon oil spill occurred due to a faulty concrete core of which a surge of natural gas was blasted against. The surge resulted in an explosion, killing 11 around the area and creating a massive environmental impact on the surrounding area.
Ever since that 87-day long disaster, many Floridians on both sides of the aisle have been strongly opposed to any measure that attempts to open the coastline to offshore drilling.
“If you look at public opinion polling in Florida, it doesn’t matter how far from the coast this drilling is … people just don’t like it,” Politico Climate and Energy Reporter Zack Colman said. “You can ask Republican congressmen, ‘Are there any conditions in which you would support offshore drilling?’ And uniformly, lawmakers have told me, ‘No way, there’s no way I can support this.’”
Additionally, a Quinnipiac University poll of Florida voters released March 13, 2019 showed that 64% opposed the practice of offshore drilling.
Countless bills have been introduced recently in both chambers of Congress, including those of Republican Senator Marco Rubio and Naples Representative Francis Rooney, who disagree on how long offshore drilling should be banned, as the current moratorium lasts until 2022.
Rubio’s bill bans offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, but only through 2027. On the other hand, Rooney’s bill bans offshore drilling permanently, a move the Trump administration does not agree with.
Many Floridians on both sides of the aisle have been strongly opposed to any measure that attempts to open the coastline to offshore drilling.
The Trump administration supports Rubio’s bill, but plans on vetoing Rooney’s bill as a result of the administration being uncomfortable with a permanent ban on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Rooney and others have also stated that besides the environmental effects, the military can also benefit from the ban on offshore drilling.
“A study the military did last year showed that the most intense testing going forward is just east of that line,” Rooney said. “There’s high-tech radio frequency work and some other kinds of classified work going on.”
Offshore drilling is permitted in the central and western portions of the Gulf of Mexico, off the Texas and Louisiana coasts, as lawmakers in those states oppose most restrictions on drilling.
Floridians, however, do not see eye-to-eye with the Trump administration on this issue.
In the November 2018 midterm elections, Florida voters overwhelmingly approved Amendment 9, banning drilling in state-controlled waters, which stretch 3 miles off the Atlantic Coast and 9 off the Gulf of Mexico coast, respectively.
Even Governor Ron DeSantis, a relatively strong Trump ally, signed an executive order in January to commit the Department of Environmental Protection to “adamantly oppose all offshore oil and gas activities off every coast in Florida and hydraulic fracturing in Florida.”
While the future for offshore drilling is relatively unknown, lawmakers and voters are surely integral to guiding it towards their intended path.
Photo courtesy of Student Energy