Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Keep Drilling out of Eastern Gulf | Florida Members of Congress Issue a Warning

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Keep Drilling out of Eastern Gulf | Florida Members of Congress Issue a Warning

Article excerpt

OUR VIEW

Seventeen members of Congress representing Florida recently and appropriately put the U.S. secretary of the interior -- and, by extension, President Donald Trump -- on notice: Keep the eastern Gulf of Mexico off limits to drilling for gas and oil, or expect a fight.

Good for them.

Drilling and related activities pose risks to the marine environment, Florida's tourism-based economy and American military operations that far exceed any benefits to the state or nation of the fuel that would be extracted or the revenue that would be generated.

The immediate and long-term environmental and economic effects of the Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 made those risks clear. The impacts of four million gallons of petroleum -- spilled 41 miles off the southeast Louisiana coast -- were felt up and down Florida's west coast. Imagine the damage that would be done in the event of a spill closer to coastal Florida.

What's more, the Department of Defense has opposed offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf, an area that serves as a testing and training range for jet pilots.

Rep. Vern Buchanan, a Republican from Longboat Key, maintained his longstanding opposition to offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf by signing a March 24 letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke. Buchanan was joined by four other Republicans -- but not, we are disappointed to report, by Rep. Tom Rooney, whose district includes south Sarasota County -- and 11 Democrats from the House. Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson was the lead writer; unfortunately, Republican Sen. Marco Rubio did not sign on, continuing his troubling reluctance to fight for Florida on this issue. (Florida has 27 representatives for a total of 29 members of Congress.)

In a statement released this week, Buchanan accurately summarized the stakes: "Florida's coastal communities depend on a clean and healthy ocean and we shouldn't jeopardize the state's economy or environment by gambling on operations that lack adequate safeguards. …

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