ADAM PUTNAM - OFF-SHORE DRILLING, WEDNESDAY, 28 JUNE 2006, Stan Davis06/28/06
Last week, the House Resources Committee in Washington voted 29-9 to send legislation to the full House that would legalize the drilling for oil and gas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.
Until now, the Florida delegation to Washington had stood, more-or-less solidly behind maintaining the 25-year old ban on such drilling. But Bartow Congressman, Adam Putnam put an end to that last week when he crafted a so-called compromise bill.
Wednesday morning, protesters gathered outside Putnamâ€™s offices in Bartow, hoping to change his mind.
WMNFâ€™s Stan Davis was there and filed this story.
Often-times, when people from around the globe think of Florida, they think of beautiful beaches and gorgeous Gulf seas, a limitless bounty of sporting fish, and clean, crisp salty air.
According to the Natural Resources Defense Council, thatâ€™s what most tourists visiting Florida come for.
Tourism is a $60 billion business in this state, and it accounts for about 1 million jobs.
And, of course, it isnâ€™t just tourists who love our beachesâ€¦
[Actuality 2- Beverly Griffus- â€œâ€¦ Iâ€™m a native Floridian â€¦ it begs the question of why would he do that?â€?]
What is it, exactly that Adam Putnam did?
Putnam, the third-term Congressman and GOP-up-and-comer from Polk County, broke ranks with the Florida Congressional delegation last week by striking a deal that would allow oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico just miles from some of the highest-ranked beaches in the world:
Itâ€™s called the Deep Oceans Energy Resources Act.
Putnam, who chairs the Republican Policy Committee, also sits on the House Resources Committee, where he is Floridaâ€™s highest-ranking Republican. The Resources Committee is chaired by fellow Republican, Richard Pombo of California, a well-known advocate of off-shore oil and gas drilling, even off the coast of his own state.
Susan Glickman, Florida Policy Director for the Natural Resources Defense Council described what Putnam has been doing on Pomboâ€™s committeeâ€¦
[Actuality 3- Susan Glickman- â€œâ€¦ He has led the chargeâ€”working with Congressman Richard Pomboâ€¦ much closer than 50 miles from the coast.â€?]
The bill, scheduled for debate and vote by the House of Representatives on Thursday, is being promoted as a way to ensure that there will be a 100-mile buffer between Floridaâ€™s beaches and any off-shore drilling rig. But that is only if the Florida legislature votes every five-years to keep it that way. Otherwise that 100-mile buffer turns into a 50-mile buffer.
But wait, thereâ€™s more!
The state legislature could also vote to bring drilling in closer than 50-miles, some say as close as just a few miles of the coast.
Hereâ€™s John Nolgrin of Florida Public Interest Research Groupâ€¦
[Actuality 4- John Nolgrin- â€œâ€¦ Generally, what the bill doesâ€¦paying states to allow oil drilling off their coastsâ€¦â€?]
Susan Glickman of the NRDC was alarmed not just by the pork in this bill, but by the realities of off-shore drilling weâ€™ve already witnessedâ€¦
[Actuality 5- Susan Glickman- â€œâ€¦ why on Earthâ€¦ compromise the economy of the state of Floridaâ€¦â€?]
She went on to describe what might be called a worst-case scenarioâ€¦
[Actuality 6- Susan Glickman- â€œâ€¦of course Florida is particularly vulnerableâ€¦ up to Jacksonvilleâ€¦â€?]
Interestingly, just a month ago, Putnam voted to maintain the drilling moratorium when a bill came before the House, specifically tied to the extraction of natural gas. On May 18, the day that bill was defeated, Putnam called the possibility of ending the moratorium, â€œa grievous assault on Florida and other states.â€?
What changed his mind? WMNF made repeated calls to Putnamâ€™s office for their response, but none were returned. In a prepared statement offered to the press, Putnam explained his policy reversal this wayâ€¦
Quote: â€œBy giving the Florida Legislature the final say, we can ensure that Floridaâ€™s spectacular beaches remain that way for our residents and the millions of Americans who visit the Sunshine State each year.â€? Unquote.
If youâ€™d like to contact your Congressional Representative, you can either call the switchboard at the US Capitol, or go to www.nrdc.org to send an email
For WMNF Iâ€™m Stan Davis