Senator Nelson: No drilling off Florida's coast

08/26/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Senator Bill Nelson said today he will do whatever it takes to make sure a proposal to allow offshore drilling near Florida’s coast is rejected in the Senate. Nelson said it would destroy the state’s economy if it were allowed.

Legislation filed last month by Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski and co-sponsored by Louisiana Democrat Mary Landieu would allow drilling near Pensacola and in the highly-coveted Destin Dome.

A new twist in the legislation, making it more attractive for some Floridians, is including the state in a profit-sharing arrangement now enjoyed by other Gulf states.

Nelson was joined by several environmentalists and business officials, including Phil Compton from the Sierra Club, at a news conference at his Tampa District office. The Sierra Club has just produced a new report called “Don’t Rig Our Coastal Economy”.

D.T. Minich is Director of Tourism for Pinellas County. He said that with two of the country’s finest beaches, Caladesi and Fort DeSoto, the last thing the region wants is an oil spill.

In the Brevard County Newspaper Florida Today, GOP State Senator Mike Haridopolous says Florida lawmakers should open the Gulf Coast to offshore drilling to help fund schools.

It’s just the latest comment about offshore drilling from an influential state Republican lawmaker. Haridopolous said he is working on offshore drilling proposals with Dean Cannon, a Winter Park Republican and the projected next House Speaker. Haridopoulus will be the next Senate Leader, and says he will conduct town hall meetings over the next 6 months to gauge reaction for the proposal.

Susan Glickman is with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Tallahassee. She says that lobbyists for the oil industry and working harder than ever in the state capital these days.

Mary Wilkerson runs Gulfside Resorts, vocational rental homes with her husband in Indian Rocks Beach. She reminisced about an oil spill off of Treasure Island in 1993.

A favorite reason why Nelson says there shouldn’t be any drilling allowed near the Eastern Gulf is that oil and gas rigs would be erected in the midst of what he calls the largest training and testing area for the U.S. military in the world.

Nelson talked up the notion of the U.S. using more natural gas for its energy needs in lieu of oil, and said that the greatest reserves for natural gas now exist in the U.S., from Louisiana up to Pennsylvania. But he said that oil and gas companies won’t go for that.

Nelson said that he and a number of other senators will filibuster the bill if the drilling provision isn't removed from the energy bill. Such a parliamentary stalling tactic requires 60 votes to overcome. Nelson had no comment about the overall cap-and-trade legislation energy bill that is scheduled to move to the Senate next month.

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