Hills. BOCC opposes expanded oil drilling

05/05/10 Kate Bradshaw
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Today, the Hillsborough Board of County Commissioners adopted a resolution that opposes expanded offshore oil drilling. Earlier in the day, commissioners heard from several environmental activists, including Phil Compton of the Sierra Club, who said a smaller spill in the Timor Sea late last year shows that no amount of drilling is acceptable.

Well, actually, last August through October, ten weeks, on the other side of the world, if we were paying attention, there was something that happened: the Montara oil spill in the Timor Sea, between Indonesia and Australia. That was only one-tenth as much oil flowing out of that spill: 400 barrels a day, versus the current amount of five thousand. And that was in much shallower water: three hundred feet, versus five thousand feet that they're dealing with right now off Louisiana. Yet that took seventy-three days for them to plug that spill.

Compton added that the economic impact of Florida’s coasts is too important to risk more spills.

We earn sixty-five billion dollars a year here, in the state of Florida, from people visiting our beaches. And that is how Florida makes its money. This shows that drilling really is very risky, very dirty, very dangerous, and the risk is greater for our west coast than anyplace else.

Beverly Griffiths, also of the Sierra Club, said that big oil can’t be trusted.

This offshore facility was supposed to be state-of-the-art. We were assured that the hundreds of rigs along our nation's beaches are completely safe. Not so. The Sierra Club is pleased that the White House is suspending any new offshore drilling during the investigation into the cause of this blast. But there should be no doubt left that drilling is too dirty and too dangerous.

It was Commissioner Kevin Beckner who brought up the issue for discussion.

There is an economic and environmental tsunami that is threatening the Gulf Coast region, and this state. And what disturbs me even more, and why I think we need to take action as a board, is that there's still our president, and there are still our federal and state legislative delegates, some of who are still considering expanding offshore drilling, some as little as three to ten miles off of our coast within the state waters.

While Republican politicians such as U.S. Senate hopeful Marco Rubio are sticking to their guns when in comes to supporting offshore drilling, some officials are ignoring party lines on the issue. Rose Ferlita, a Republican, said Beckner’s resolution may not go far enough.

I mean, this is certainly a start. But at the same time, I hope nobody thinks that means that we're complacent with what's already there, because maybe under these circumstances, under these extreme circumstances, and what you have said — and thank you for your time and sitting here waiting for us to listen to you — that that's even too much, that's just too extreme. But I think this is a start, and I'll certainly support it.

Mark Sharpe, another Republican commissioner, seconded Beckner’s motion to adopt the resolution.

Energy production, by its very nature, is dirty, dangerous, and also, though, very important to the security of our country and to the free world. And when we look at, when we balance trying to provide energy today, with the technology that we currently have, and the systems that we have in place, with the desire to come up with a viable alternative.

The commission voted unanimously to accept it, though conservative Commissioners Jim Norman and Al Higginbotham were noticeably absent from the vote. The commissioners also voted to let Internal Performance Auditor Jim Barnes to keep his job. Commissioners Sharpe, Ferlita and Hagan had voted to terminate him.

More WMNF coverage of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill:

BP's track record on safety and are the chemical dispersants harmful to the environment?

Coast Guard holds secret meeting with environmental groups

Seabird sanctuary prepares for oil slick disaster in Tampa Bay

Castor says BP thinks oil leak could be up to 60 thousand barrels per day

Behind “Drill, Baby, Drill”

Officials give rosy view on oil spill recovery efforts

Sen Bill Nelson wants pause in exploration until cause of oil spill determined

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