U.S. House passes drilling ban off Florida; not likely to pass Senate

Jenna Stevens of Environment Florida talks about oil drilling ban

Share this:

On Wednesday the U.S. House passed a bill to permanently ban fossil fuel drilling in federal waters off Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Nearly all Florida Hose members supported the ban. The only “no” came from Republican Ted Yoho.

The House also passed a ban on drilling in parts of the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

For reaction, WMNF interviewed Jenna Stevens, the federal advocate for Environment Florida. She supports the bills.

“The two bills that passed yesterday, the first one was actually filed by some of our own representatives in Congress, U.S. Congresswoman Kathy Castor and U.S. Congressman Francis Rooney, would pass permanent protections for the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. And the other bill would permanently protect the Atlantic and Pacific Coastline from offshore drilling.”

SK: We’re talking about offshore drilling in Federal waters. So, there is a protection in place but that’s about to expire.

“We have a moratorium on the Eastern Gulf right now, which a lot of our members, in the Senate in the past, and in the Congress have fought really hard for that. But yesterday our members of the House in Florida fought really hard to actually vote for the will of the people in Florida by passing these protections and drawing a line in the sand about offshore drilling.”

SK: Most of us use fossil fuels. So at least right now, we need them. Why have no drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico?

“It’s just not worth jeopardizing our marine wildlife, our dolphins, our manatees, and our sea turtles. And it’s certainly not worth jeopardizing our coastal communities for fossil fuels we increasingly don’t need. Whenever and wherever we drill, we put our ecosystems, our marine animals and our pristine beaches at risk of a spill.”

SK: These bills have passed the house. But now they would go to the Senate. What could happen in the Senate?

“Well, Floridians of all political stripes, just want to keep oil off of our beaches. They want to see manatees swimming in our oceans. And, they certainly want to pass down a healthier and cleaner ocean for their children. That’s why we’re urging the US Senate to pick up and pass this critical piece of legislation.”

SK: Our two U.S. Senators are Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott. What’s their thoughts on whether this should be a permanent ban in Florida?

“They’ve been hesitant on permanent bans. They’ve advocated for extending the moratorium. But again, like I said, Floridians of all political stripes want to see this kind of legislation passed. So, we certainly urge Senator Rubio and Senator Scott to fight as hard for our oceans as members of our House delegation have.”

SK: President Trump could veto this, even if it does pass the Senate. What would happen then?

“It would go back to a vote in Congress.”

SK: We’ve had spills in the Gulf of Mexico before. Of course, the most recent famous one being the BP Deepwater Horizon blowout. If something like that happened near the coast of Florida in this area that would be protected if this bill passes, what could happen to Florida’s beaches and Florida’s wildlife?

“It would be devastating. I was 15 at the time of the BP oil spill. It’s definitely a memory that stays strong with me. I think for a lot of Floridians, seeing those images of oil washing up on the beaches in Pensacola. And birds, you know, with feathers covered in tar, just unable to fly, is something that just sticks with you.

“If this happened to our beaches, it’s pretty unimaginable the devastation that it would cause. With it not even hitting the Tampa Bay area, we saw huge amounts of cancellations in our tourism, part of our economy, you know, hotel cancellations, and things along those lines, even without just actually having oil wash up on our beaches. So, having oil wash up on our beaches would be infinitely worse.”

SK: And if people want to get involved, if they want to find out more, what can they do?

“First, they should call and thank their congressperson that voted to pass these bills. And, secondly, they should call on Senators Marco Rubio and Rick Scott to take out this legislation and fight for it.”