Sunday, February 11, 2018
Environmentalists suspicious of Gov. Scott's deal to block oil drilling off Florida coasts (Tallahassee Democrat)
Why this matters: Secretary of the Interior RYAN ZINKE flew to Tallahassee for a media event with likely Republican Senate nominee, GOVERNOR RICHARD LYNN SCOTT. He emitted vague assurances and warm fuzzies that offshore oil drilling off Florida's coast was "off the table." I don't believe him, and neither should anyone else. More flummery, dupery and nincompoopery from SCOTT and Herr TRUMP. That's all, folks.
Environmentalists up in arms over proposal to allow oil and gas drilling off Florida coasts James Call
Environmentalists are suspicious of a deal between Gov. Rick Scott and the U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to exempt Florida from plans to expand offshore oil and gas drilling. Pro-drilling groups said they should be.
Officials from the federal agency held an informational session in Tallahassee Thursday on a draft plan the Interior Department released in January to open all waters in the Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic seaboard to drilling.
Before that meeting started though, the Florida Department of Environmental Protection released a letter re-stating Scott’s opposition to the plan. Pro-drilling interests countered with a news conference to encourage the Scott and Trump administration to continue the discussion.
Kevin Doyle of the Consumer Energy Alliance said Scott and Zinke should keep “the conversation” going while Zinke’s staff develops a final draft of the plan . He was backed by Julio Fuentes of the Florida State Hispanic Chamber and Tallahassee businessman Barney Bishop. They said the U.S. needs to explore all avenues of energy development and dismissed Scott’s comments that he expects Zinke to keep his word about the Florida exemption.
“My wife tells me no every day, but I find a way to get around that no by pushing and keep asking the question,” said Bishop. “If you are right, then why are the environmentalists here if no means no?”
Environmentalists from across the state crowded into a meeting room in the hotel where Interior staff was available to answer the public’s questions. The agency has held 23 meetings across the country. The Tallahassee meeting is the only Florida gathering.
The comment period ends March 9.
“The purpose is to get information and receive information in a respectful dialogue,” said John Filostrat, a public affairs officer for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management. “The more information, we get the better we can arm the decision maker (Zinke).”
Down the hall from where Interior had set up, more than 70 people gathered to hear a roll call of Florida environmental groups stating opposition to the agency’s proposal to drill off Florida’s coasts. Members of the Sierra Club, Wildlife Defenders, Rethink Energy, the Florida Association of Counties, business owners, and university professors, all said the rewards for drilling is not worth the risk.
They came from St. Augustine, Sarasota, Fort Myers, Tampa, Daytona, Pensacola, Jacksonville, and Tallahassee. Speaker after speaker brought up the Deepwater Horizon spill as if it was a mantra that would keep Florida beaches free of oil.
“It’s not just the drilling but also the rules they want to relax that were imposed after the Deepwater Horizon,” said Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson.
Robinson is chair of the Gulf Consortium. Florida counties fouled by the Deepwater spill formed the group to allocate Florida’s share of the $1.4 billion settlement to repair the damage.
Robinson was in Tallahassee for a Consortium meeting and attended the protesters’ news conference before heading back to Pensacola.
“What Deepwater showed is you don’t have to drill off of Florida to harm Florida,” Robinson said. "Ninety-seven percent of the oil scooped out of the Gulf after Deepwater was recovered in Escambia County.”
The Deepwater spill was off the Louisiana coast. Scientists say eight years later, oysters and other marine life has not returned to pre-spill levels.
“We need to stand united as Floridians,” said Tampa’s Jerry Difabrizo. He told the group he wants to pass on to his granddaughter the clean beaches and vibrant wildlife he has enjoyed as a native Floridian.
“Let’s stop this before the magic is gone,” said Difabrizo, owner of Tampa Tile.
The Interior Department plans to release a final draft by year end and then adopt the plan by the end of 2019.
If the Florida exemption is lifted, then oil from the Florida Gulf coast could be on the market by 2030.
“That is if there’s not another spill,” said Dave Cullen of the Sierra Club.
Reporter James Call can be reached at email@example.com