Wednesday, December 1, 2010

White House Finally Says NO to Drilling off Florida's Gulf Coast (for 7 years)

40,000 Floridians joined hands in June to ask the White House to keep oil drilling far from our shores.
Apparently the President was listening after all.


BREAKING NEWS (and it's Good!)
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) - The White House won't allow any new oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico for at least the next seven years because of the BP oil spill. A senior administration official told The Associated Press on Wednesday that drilling leases won't be considered in the waters off Florida as part of the change. He spoke on condition of anonymity because the decision hadn't been announced yet. He said that because of the BP spill, the administration now understands the need to elevate safety and environmental standards. Before the spill, the administration had considered a plan to allow drilling in the eastern Gulf. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to discuss the decision later Wednesday afternoon.

We're thrilled that the Obama Administration has recognized that allowing risky new oil drilling off Florida's Gulf Coast would be economic suicide for our state's $65 billion coastal tourism economy that employs almost 1 million Floridians.
Florida, with its large commercial fleet and America’s largest recreational fishing industry, would be at risk; suffering the same ecological degradation and work stoppages that Central Gulf fisherman must still endure. Florida's Gulf Coast's sustainable coastal dependent businesses have a total economic value of $54.4 billion and employ 777,000 Floridians. We’re glad the White House has correctly judged the risks to our state's economy to be too high.

While the Eastern Gulf is off limits for now, we must still watch for a move in Tallahassee to open state waters to nearshore drilling. The state legislature, now under the control of pro-drillers House Speaker Dean Cannon and Senate President Mike Haridopolos, may only be waiting for us to forget how severely the Florida panhandle and our neighbors in Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana were affected this summer. They’re hoping they can go back to business as usual and push for removing the ban on drilling within the 3-10 miles under the state’s jurisdiction. Nothing in today’s White House announcement precludes or impedes the Legislature from taking such foolhardy action. In 2009 American Petroleum Institute reps stormed the state, telling every group they could get in front of that we could have our tourism and new drilling income too, and that Florida should “do its part” to make America more energy independent and end our addiction to oil. Without any leaders to stand in their way in Tallahassee, we expect them to be back at again next year.

The real way for Florida to "do its part" to make America more energy independent is for us break our addiction and move beyond oil. Not to drill for it off our shores, but rather to end the monopoly of the automobile. We have few safe choices to do anything other than drive everywhere, every time we go anywhere. Tampa and Orlando are the two most dangerous cities in America to walk or ride a bike. We’re the last state to develop light and commuter rail in most communities, and the chance to have the Western Hemisphere’s first high speed train is at risk of being derailed by those who want to keep us from having a choice about how we travel our state.

It’s time for Florida to declare its independence from the tyranny of oil, the unending terror it threatens to our state’s economy and environment. In Florida, our economy and our environment are one and the same, and protecting one means protecting the other. It’s time to provide Floridians with real choices in transportation that attract high paying jobs, reduces commuter times, cleans our air from the ozone pollution that acts like a sunburn on our lungs, and finally ends the specter of oil on our beaches that has haunted us for too long. Today’s announcement by the White House gives us the chance to make these long overdue changes. Let’s get to work!

Phil Compton, Field Organizer
Sierra Club Florida
St. Petersburg, FL