Offshore Oil-Rig Disaster Concerns Fla. Lawmakers

The Deepwater Horizon oil rig burns before sinking this past week. (GERALD HERBERT, ASSOCIATED PRESS)

Editor’s Note – The opponents of offshore drilling, including those in the Obama administration, are sure to use this tragic incident to their advantage. 

In Rahm Emanuel’s own word’s; “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste.”

By Bill Cotterell
Florida Capital Bureau

The flaming collapse of an offshore oil rig near Louisiana is having an impact on the perennial coastal oil-drilling issue in the Florida Legislature.

“It’s not going to make it any easier for us,” Barney Bishop, head of Associated Industries of Florida, said Thursday. “We’ll have to wait to see what the environmental damage is. It’s terrible that people lost their lives, and I don’t mean to trivialize that in any way, but we don’t yet know all the circumstances.”

The state House passed a plan last year to permit drilling for oil and natural gas on state waters of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, slowed the process this year and the matter made no real progress.

But next year’s presiding officers — House Speaker-designate Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, and Senate President-designate Mike Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island — are ardent proponents of energy development.

Gov. Charlie Crist, who has supported drilling, said the Louisiana disaster is sure to concern legislators next session.

“If you witnessed that and don’t have some concern, there’s something wrong,” Crist said. “I haven’t had a chance, candidly, to review the technology of the rig in Louisiana, but that would be disconcerting.”

Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and Rep. Clay Ford, a Gulf Breeze Republican, expressed concern about tourism and military operations in the region where oil and natural gas exploration could be planned.

“Obviously, any spill or accident or equipment failure that makes big news is going to have an effect on people’s minds regarding this,” said Gaetz. “Our biggest economic interests are tourism and the military so that’s my show-stopper, before I even get to the technology of it. We’ve got five military bases out there with a $17 billion economic impact.”

Ford said most residents of Northwest Florida are in favor of drilling. But he said “I’d have to give it a lot more thought because of that accident.”


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