Drilling Off the Coast of Florida

Offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico has been predominately located in the central and western portions of the Gulf off the coasts of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama, but federal lawmakers have recently introduced legislation that would allow drilling much closer to Florida’s coast.According to an article in the Tampa Bay Times, under current law drilling is prohibited within 125 miles off the coast of the Panhandle and 235 miles off the coast of Tampa Bay. The prohibition of drilling in this area started in 1983. Understandably, Senator Bill Nelson of Florida wants to extend the current moratorium on drilling, protecting the state, in particular tourism. Both of Louisiana and Mississippi’s senators, along with one of Texas’ senators, are pushing to expand oil and gas development to within just 50 miles off Florida’s coast. If this is allowed, pristine beaches would be subject to the impacts of oil and gas development – from regular leaks, and destructive pipelines and other infrastructure to large scale catastrophes like the BP oil disaster. Fouling the beaches of Florida would wreck tourism, devastating the economy, not to mention the environment.Florida’s tourism industry is estimated at $70 billion dollars. Jeopardizing this industry and the environment in the name of oil and gas exploration is not an option. It would be foolish to allow oil and gas exploration and drilling off the coast of Florida. The Gulf Coast suffered greatly due to the BP drilling disaster, and any chance of it happening again 50 miles off Florida’s coast is unacceptable. Florida already knows what it’s like to suffer environmental disaster due to the oil and gas industry’s irresponsible drilling, and it’s essential that we continue to protect its coast and communities from these impacts. Bryan Clarey is a Media and Communications Intern with GRN

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