Florida lawmakers want to ban offshore drilling to protect our coastline

We hope to never see an oil spill like the Deepwater Horizon spill of 2010. It dumped millions of barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico and left 11 people dead.

Now, there is a renewed effort to protect Florida’s coastline as lawmakers push a bill to ban offshore drilling.

Florida is surrounded by more than 1,000 miles of coastline. Representative Vern Buchanan represents Florida’s 16th Congressional District. “Well, I can’t imagine anything more important than our water quality,” Buchanan said.

He wants to protect the sunshine state after growing up with water woes.

“Growing up in Michigan, I remember Lake Erie, it was so polluted, you couldn’t swim in it, you couldn’t. If you caught a fish, you couldn’t eat it because of the mercury content,” said Rep. Buchanan. “And so, we’ve got to fight every day working together.”

With his past and the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in mind, Buchanan wants to permanently ban drilling off of Florida’s coast.

“I remember the implosion, even though it didn’t get down and affect our beaches necessarily in Southwest Florida,” Buchanan said. “But a lot of people didn’t know the difference, a lot of vacations and everything else got canceled.”

The Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation supports the ban. James Evans is the director of environmental policy for SCCF.

“We’re a tourism-based economy, we’re routinely impacted by red tide, discharges from Lake Okeechobee, other water quality issues. Of course, those all have a direct impact on our economy, our property values, and our quality of life here in Southwest Florida,” Evans said.

David Mica worked on the Florida Petroleum Council for 35 years and doesn’t agree with this push to restrict oil production. He believes improvements in safety and technology could ease some of the concerns those backing the bill have.

“There are probably some ways we could get to a place where we meet all of the goals that everybody wants here,” Mica said.

The ban on drilling in the eastern Gulf ends in 2022. The bill is currently before the Natural Resources Committee.

Reporter:Stephanie Byrne
Writer:Drew Hill
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