Natural resources expert says Gulf offshore drilling proposal dangerous

There is a moratorium on offshore drilling in place along Florida’s Gulf coast. There are about 4,000 active wells in the Gulf, none of them near the state. However, the moratorium is set to expire in less than five years., and Rep. Francis Rooney (R-Naples) wants to make it permanent.

In Fort Myers, Jim Beever, natural resources expert for the Southwest Florida Regional Planning Council, said allowing oil rigs off Florida’s coast would be disastrous Friday.

“Well basically it protects our coast,” Beever said. “It protects our fisheries. It also protects the activities of the air force bases up in the panhandle.”

But, the International Association of Drilling Contractors said adding rigs would only help the local economy. The association told WINK News allowing drilling in the eastern Gulf could mean $18 billion each per year and 230,000 jobs.

Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) is proposing similar legislation in the U.S. Senate. Lawmakers reconvene in Washington Tuesday.

Although there is potential for economic growth, Beever said the consequences of a spill could be catastrophic.

“You see the big large ones that make the media, but every day and regular operation, there is petroleum byproducts that are coming off of these,” Beever said.

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