Two top Fla. politicans weigh in on offshore drilling
Last week, the Obama Administration said the oil leak in the gulf will not sway its support for expanded offshore drilling. While President Obama hopes to include it in his energy policy, not all Washington Democrats are on the same page. This morning, WMNFâs Kate Bradshaw spoke with Florida U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson about his position on drilling for oil in Floridaâs waters.
The spill currently sits thirty miles off the shore of Louisiana. It covers an area roughly the size of Houston, and reportedly grows by forty-two thousand gallons, or one thousand barrels, each day. During his Tampa visit, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson called the Louisiana oil rig explosion and subsequent leak a wake-up call. But the senator also said he does not oppose all offshore drilling.
Well, the Obama administration wanted to drill up to 75 miles off of Florida in the gulf. And I said, âNothing doing.â We would not even consider it for 125 miles, because of the law that I passed four years ago that keeps it 125 miles off of the Panhandle coast of Florida. And so we are now in discussions with the Obama administration as to whether or not 125 miles is far enough off the coast from a standpoint of protecting our tourism interests, our beaches, as well as our delicate estuaries where so much of marine life is spawned.
Senator Nelson said that in addition to the threats drilling poses to the Gulf Coastâs environment and economy, thereâs a more politically friendly factor limiting the administrationâs ability to open up Floridaâs coasts to drilling.
Most of the Gulf of Mexico off of Florida is restricted space because it is the largest testing and training area for the U.S. military in the world. And as a result, we are not going to let any of that area be allowed by the administration for drilling unless the military says that they have no conflict with it. Thus far, they have not said that. So all bets are off right now. Weâll have to see how this progresses.
Senator Nelson visited Tampa the same day the Senate had planned to introduce its proposal to expand drilling in the gulf as part of sweeping energy legislation. That bill is stalled due to partisan disagreement over an unrelated immigration reform bill. National Geographic magazine reports that its sponsors had planned to appear with executives from British Petroleum, the company leasing the rig at the time of the explosion, at the billâs unveiling. The area that would be slated for oil exploration sits in the eastern half of the Gulf. But its southeastern corner is actually within thirty miles of the Dry Tortugas, which are part of the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary.
State Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, a Democrat running for governor, said the recent spill is proof that drilling close to shore is not a good idea.
These uncontrollable accidents can cause enormous harm, and I certainly wouldnât, just as I wouldnât advocate this near-shore drilling off the coast of Florida, certainly the areas like the Dry Tortugas are a national treasure. And we should not be drilling close by any area that is environmentally at risk in the event of oil spills.
Cleanup efforts, which could take months, are currently under way in the gulf, including the use of robot submarines and a chemical that disperses oil.
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