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Sun Sentinel: William E. Gibson, Pressure mounts to drill for oil near Florida shores

Thursday, May 28, 2015

WASHINGTON — Florida leaders are struggling to fend off mounting pressure to drill for oil off the east and west coasts, just five years after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster.

Republican senators from Louisiana and other oil-rich states are pushing legislation in Congress that would allow rigs as close as 50 miles from Florida’s Gulf Coast, encroaching on the current 125-mile buffer zone.

Florida members of Congress and environmental groups, meanwhile, are rallying against the Obama administration’s plan to blast underwater sound waves along the Atlantic Coast to scope out oil deposits.

Drilling begins 3 miles from epicenter of BP oil spill
“Florida is under siege,” warned Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla.

State environmental officials have asked federal officials to hold off on seismic testing. Nelson and U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy, D-Jupiter, are promoting legislation to halt it.

The long-simmering confrontation over offshore drilling has resumed now that Republicans control both chambers in Congress and drilling proponents dominate key committees. As oil prices creep up again, the energy industry and its allies in Congress are renewing a long-sought quest to explore waters closer to Florida.
Drilling proponents say more offshore production would create jobs and tap energy sources without seriously damaging marine life. They estimate that expanded production in the Gulf alone could generate 200,000 jobs while contributing millions of dollars of oil revenue to Florida and other states.

“What is there to oppose?” said Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La.

The confrontation potentially reopens a deal struck in Congress in 2006 that established a 125-mile buffer along Florida’s Gulf Coast while opening tracts farther west to drilling.

Four years later, the Deepwater Horizon platform exploded, spewing more than 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf for 87 days before it was capped. Murphy’s environmental-services business in Fort Lauderdale helped clean up the mess.

U.S. Rep. Patrick Murphy
Now a congressman running for the Senate, Murphy filed a bill this month to forestall seismic testing along Florida’s Atlantic Coast. Co-sponsors include Republican Rep. Bill Posey, of Rockledge, and Democratic Reps. Alcee Hastings, of West Delray; Lois Frankel, of West Palm Beach; Debbie Wasserman Schultz, of Weston; and Frederica Wilson, of Miami Gardens.

The bill was endorsed by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Oceana and the National Parks Conservation Association.

Nelson filed the same bill in the Senate and another one to extend the moratorium on drilling near Florida’s Gulf Coast for another five years, from 2022 until 2027.
Kiss your beach views goodbye . . . ” Skeletor ” will get his ” share ” of the pie and let it happen along with his legislature thieves aiding and abetting the rigs !

Relatively shallow tracks near Florida’s west coast are especially attractive to offshore drillers because they contain known deposits of oil and natural gas and are conveniently near an existing network of pipelines and platforms in the Central Gulf.

East Coast waters are less well known, prompting the Obama administration’s decision to send sound waves into the ocean depths to help spot rock formations and other signs that point to deposits of black gold.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson
“We should always keep all of our options open. You’re not going to know if there’s anything out there unless you do some seismic testing,” said Barney Bishop, former CEO of Associated Industries of Florida and former executive director of the Florida Democratic Party.

“They do seismic testing all around the world all the time,” said Bishop, now a lobbyist. “I don’t believe there’s been any significant damage to the environment. I guess fish have personalities and brains and all that kind of stuff. But it’s hard for me to imagine that seismic testing would do anything that significantly has a bearing on the fish population in the Atlantic Ocean.”

Opponents say oil production, especially if it leads to a major spill, would jeopardize Florida tourism, fishing and recreation, while damaging a fragile environment.
Seventy-five of the world’s top marine scientists — including Edmund Gerstein and Denise Herzing of Florida Atlantic University — warned President Barack Obama in March that airgun blasts would pose “a significant threat to marine life.”

The scientists said airgun firings every 10 to 12 seconds for weeks or months at a time — tantamount to underwater chemical explosions — would displace fish populations, kill larvae and disrupt foraging and reproduction.

To opponents, testing is the first step leading to oil rigs, spills and environmental damage. To Bishop and many others, testing would at least reveal whether there’s enough oil near Florida’s shores “to find out whether it’s even worth having an argument.”

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