We’re breathing a cautious sigh of relief here in Florida on the issue of offshore drilling. A dangerous bill that would have lifted the state’s offshore drilling ban appears to be dead. We’re keeping our fingers crossed.
Our state Senate President told reporters today that the Legislature has run out of time to hear the offshore oil issue. The bill passed the Florida House of Representatives 70-43 on Monday. If it isn’t heard in the Senate, the bill will die.
The Florida Legislature isn’t scheduled to adjourn for another week, so we’re hoping this ugly proposal stays buried. Gov. Charlie Crist also says he thinks the proposal is too late for reasonable debate.
The push for offshore drilling comes from a group of unidentified oil companies organized as "Florida Energy Associates" that obviously put a bunch of money behind it.
"The group refuses to identify its members except to say they include independent oilmen interested in exploring for oil and gas in Florida waters," reports the Miami Herald/St. Petersburg Times Capitol Bureau.
Whoever they are, they shoved their proposal through the Florida House with a phalanx of high-priced and well-known Florida lobbyists and PR people, along with a TV and print advertising blitz.
The last-minute proposal showed up as a surprise stealth amendment. Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Orlando, tagged the oil drilling language onto a little-noticed bill. The measure would allow Florida’s governor and Cabinet to solicit companies to drill in the state’s near-shore waters—eleven miles off the Gulf Coast and 3.5 miles off the east coast.
I can’t help thinking about what happened in 1979, when an offshore oil well in Campeche Bay, Mexico, blew out, spewing 3 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, and sliming beaches in Texas. It continued to flow into the sea for nine months, and nobody cold stop it.
It is ridiculous to be having this fight again. Just four years ago, Gov. Jeb Bush and the Florida Cabinet signed a landmark deal to buy back two off-shore drilling leases on the Gulf Coast for $12.5 million worth of taxpayer money, protecting the coastline from Apalachicola to Naples.
After about 50 years of bitter litigation, the state finally rid itself of oil leases in state waters. It is amazing that 70 Florida lawmakers would vote to repeat the same mistake so quickly.