Defense is Florida’s fourth largest industry, with a total
economic footprint of roughly $78.9 billion. The large area off Florida’s Gulf
coast – known as the eastern Gulf of Mexico – has a long history of providing
unconstrained access for military training and testing activities that are
essential to U.S. national security. Recognizing the importance of this area
for national defense training, Congress enacted the Gulf of Mexico Energy
Security Act (GOMESA) to protect this section of the Gulf from any offshore oil
and gas development in 2006.
For more information on how offshore drilling affects military readiness in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, click here.
Trump’s dangerous offshore drilling plan will
only bring losses to more families from the unavoidable spills and scarring
industrialization that comes with this dirty industry. If drilling is expanded,
our coastal businesses and surrounding communities will be the first to feel
the negative impacts.
By Tom Kies, Robin Miller and Vipe Desai
Recent reporting by the Wall Street Journal that President Donald
Trump’s plan to open nearly all of our oceans to offshore drilling has stalled
is welcome news. As leaders of three business alliances — representing more
than 47,000 businesses and over 500,000 fishing families — we are encouraged by
the news of delay. Our businesses are part of the opposition that’s swelled
large and loud enough to slow the president’s risky plan. Unfortunately, until
we hear that our waters are off the table entirely, we cannot breathe a sigh of
The threat of offshore drilling and exploration is clear: It would
put us out of business. Oil spills and coastal businesses cannot coexist, which
is why so many have united against the president’s plan for wholesale drilling
off our coasts. Our favorite local restaurants, surf shops and major beachfront
hotels employ our neighbors, friends and families and make up the cultural
fabric of our special coastal communities. The delayed offshore drilling
proposal directly threatens more than 2.6 million coastal jobs and roughly $180
billion in GDP that is generated from fishing, tourism and recreation along the
Atlantic, Pacific and Florida’s Gulf coasts.
To understand the threat, look no further than the BP Deepwater
Horizon disaster, which claimed 11 lives and destroyed marine environments
across the Gulf of Mexico. The spill caused a sharp drop in tourism throughout
Gulf Coast cities as people took their vacations elsewhere. Wary of consuming
oil-contaminated food, the regional seafood industry also took a hit. Real
estate values dropped in Florida, even in areas like St. Petersburg that never
saw oil. Black sludge lapping onto Pensacola beaches likely drove a 52 percent
decrease in searches for the Panhandle city on TripAdvisor, compared to when it
had been oil-free. From Louisiana to Florida, for-hire fishing trips dropped by
anywhere from 33 to 98 percent in each Gulf Coast state following the spill.
More than 10 million user-days of beach, fishing and boating were lost because
of the disaster.
Behind those statistics are real people and real families that
rely on a clean and healthy ocean to make ends meet. As it stands, Trump’s
dangerous offshore drilling plan will only bring losses to more families from
the unavoidable spills and scarring industrialization that comes with this
dirty industry. If drilling is expanded, our coastal businesses and surrounding
communities will be the first to feel the negative impacts. Another
catastrophic spill would be our generation’s legacy to our children and
Claims of new jobs from the oil industry should be met with
skepticism. The few jobs that could come from new offshore drilling would
likely go to out-of-state or foreign workers, and even the majority of those
wouldn’t become a reality for 10 to 20 years after the leasing. Offshore
drilling is neither dependable nor safe, but our current coastal industries are
both. It’s imperative that we protect the jobs and communities that thrive on a
clean and healthy ocean.
Decisions being made right now on offshore drilling will have
major impacts on our livelihoods far into the future. That’s why plans to
expand offshore drilling should be formally ended, not simply delayed.
Opposition to offshore drilling bridges the political divide and we
collectively represent hundreds of thousands of hard-working Americans waiting
for some reassurance that our coasts will be protected.
We believe President Trump is committed to American jobs and hope
he will do the right thing to protect ours. The president and Interior
Secretary David Bernhardt need to ensure the public that new areas will be off
the table for future drilling. Sidelining the drilling plan is one thing, now
we need it thrown out altogether. Our waters need protecting, and so do our
Tom Kies is the president of the Carteret County
(N.C.) Chamber of Commerce and president of the Business Alliance for
Protecting the Atlantic Coast; Robin Miller is the president/CEO of the Tampa
Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce and chair of the Florida Gulf Coast Business
Coalition; and Vipe Desai is the CEO of HDX Mix and a founding member of the
Business Alliance for Protecting the Pacific Coast.
Last week, the House of Representatives voted on several measures that would protect our coasts from offshore drilling. These amendments prevent federal dollars from being spent to expand offshore drilling in the Atlantic Ocean, Pacific Ocean and off Florida’s Gulf coast. The strong bipartisan votes cut through the partisan rancor and demonstrate the strength of opposition to offshore drilling. If ultimately enacted, the bans on offshore drilling would last for one-year, and now we’re counting on the Senate to follow the House’s leadership on this issue and protect our coasts.
At stake are billions of dollars and millions of jobs from the fishing, recreation and tourism industries that depend on a clean, healthy ocean. Expanding offshore oil drilling would wreak havoc on coastal businesses and communities. That’s why more than 360 municipalities; over 2,200 local, state and federal elected officials; every East and West coast governor; fishing and tourism groups; and alliances representing nearly 50,000 businesses on the Pacific, Atlantic and Gulf coasts have all come out against offshore drilling activities.
President Trump opened the door to expanding offshore drilling to nearly all U.S. waters in a proposed plan last year. To many, the release of this plan brought to mind the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010. The explosion killed 11 people and poured millions of gallons of oil into Gulf waters. Hundreds of thousands of birds, marine mammals and sea turtles died. The prospect of oily beaches led to hotel cancellations up and down Florida’s Gulf Coast, even in places the oil never reached. Losses to the fishing industry are estimated well into the billions.
But it’s not only large-scale catastrophes that threaten our coasts. Smaller, chronic spills happen all the time. At least 6,500 oil spills occurred in U.S. waters between 2007 and 2017. Spills are almost always larger than reported, and cleanup methods haven’t advanced since the ’80s. It’s estimated that after the Deepwater Horizon cleanup ended, 60 million gallons of oil remained in the environment. Expanding already harmful and unsafe offshore drilling activities to other shores would be disastrous.
Even the search for oil will be harmful. The Trump administration gave five companies the greenlight to harm ocean wildlife as they search for oil deposits below the Atlantic sea floor using seismic airgun blasting. This disruptive practice involves dynamite-like blasts sending sound waves deep into the ocean floor. These blasts are repeated about every 10 seconds for weeks to months at a time. The area slated for seismic airgun blasting is huge, stretching from New Jersey to Florida. This noise could harm species ranging from the smallest zooplankton—the base of the marine food chain—to the ocean’s largest animals, like the critically endangered North Atlantic right whale.
Violently disrupting the ocean’s delicate balance at this scale would lead to irreparable damage to marine ecosystems and the fishing and tourism industries that depend on them. It’s no wonder the House of Representatives voted to keep dirty and dangerous drilling away from our coast. It’s time to stop the expansion of offshore oil drilling for good. The votes last week show that along the coast, opposing offshore drilling is no partisan matter. Now Congress can ensure that harm is permanently averted by passing two bipartisan bills, introduced by Reps. Joe Cunningham (D-S.C.) and Frances Rooney (R-Fla.), to permanently protect the Atlantic, Pacific and Florida’s Gulf Coast from offshore oil drilling.
We are counting on our lawmakers to come together again and use all available tools to stop offshore drilling. Our representatives can show their constituents that they are listening. Let’s show the American people that the government can still work for them, not the offshore oil industry.
In the fight to prevent expanded offshore drilling off the Gulf
coast of Florida, Congressman Francis Rooney has led the way. This past week, Rooney
testified before the U.S. House Rules Committee in favor of his bill (H.R. 205)
to permanently protect the eastern Gulf of Mexico from offshore drilling. In
his testimony, the Congressman spoke of the eastern Gulf’s importance to United
States’ national security.
“The Eastern Gulf is home to the Gulf Test Range, a 120,000
square mile range that stretches from the Florida panhandle to Key West. This
unimpeded training and testing area is of critical importance to our military
now and will become even more important in the future, as hypersonic and drone
He also noted the importance of an oil free coastline to
Florida’s tourist economy. Florida’s
Gulf Coast supports more than 609,000 jobs and generates over $37.4 billion
in GDP annually.
Congressman Rooney is not alone in his opposition to
offshore drilling. In Florida, elected officials from both sides of the aisle,
including Governor Ron DeSantis, are united in their opposition to offshore
drilling because of the threat it poses to our country’s national security and
Florida’s clean coast economy.
For more on Congressman Rooney’s testimony, read Sunshine State News article here.
Earlier this month, former U.S. Senator Jim Webb visited Pensacola to promote offshore oil exploration. As co-chair of Explore Offshore, a project of the American Petroleum Institute (API) that encourages the expansion of offshore oil exploration, Webb intended to counter the staunch opposition to drilling already in place along the Gulf. The crux of his argument was simple: vast improvements have been made to the oil industry and any drilling would take place “way over the sight line” so it would not “be a bother.” Floridians, however, would argue otherwise.
A recent report
by Oceana revealed that 9 years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the
federal government has failed to adopt and implement comprehensive safety
measures to protect us from another disaster of this scale. The report found
that at least 6,500 oil spills occurred in U.S. waters between 2007 and 2017 and
that these spills are typically far larger than reported. Additionally, spills
such as the Taylor Energy oil spill, which has been leaking millions of barrels
of oil for 14 years now, remain uncapped with no solution in sight.
Finally, Floridians know all too well that just because you
cannot see an oil rig, does not mean your shores and tourist economies are
safe. The BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig was off the coast of Louisiana, nowhere
near Florida’s Gulf coast, and yet oil ended up on our beaches. Offshore
drilling is already too close, and we cannot allow it one inch closer. Perhaps
Pensacola Mayor Grover Robinson said it best, “No drilling. Period.”
The FGCBC was delighted to see U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio use their influence to urge the Department of Interior to exclude Florida’s Gulf Coast from the Federal offshore drilling plan. This letter was sent ahead of the much anticipated release of the Proposed (offshore drilling) Program expected to come out in the coming weeks. We must ensure that our coasts are protected.
Below is the article by Scott Powers of Florida Politics
Rick Scott, Marco Rubio urge feds to keep Florida out of off-shore drilling plans
Florida’s U.S. Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio sent a letter Wednesday to new Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt urging the department to exclude Florida’s Gulf Coast from oil and gas drilling plans, just as his predecessor had pledged to do.
Wednesday’s letter from Florida’s Republican Senators included a reminder of Zinke’s promise to include Florida’s gulf waters in a moratorium.
“Citing the broad support within the state for protecting Florida’s coastline from the potential risks from offshore drilling, your predecessor was publicly supportive of our request,” Scott and Rubio wrote. “In addition, the people of Florida recently demonstrated this broad support when they overwhelmingly approved an amendment to the state’s constitution banning drilling for oil and natural gas in state waters.”
They cited the environmental and economic value of offshore waters to Florida, as well as the “Military Mission Line” that Scott’s predecessor, Democratic former U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, had fought for, forbidding drilling in waters offshore from Florida’s military installations.
“We remain concerned about the impacts of oil and gas activities on Florida’s marine and coastal environment, as well as the military activities critical to our national security,” Rubio and Scott wrote. “Oil spills, such as the Deepwater Horizon disaster, have demonstrated the catastrophic impacts increased oil and gas drilling around Florida could wreak on our state’s environmental resources, fisheries, tourism, and economy.
“Once again, we urge the Department to stand by your commitment to exclude the offshore waters around Florida from further consideration in its National Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Proposed Plan. We welcome the opportunity to continue working with you to preserve Florida’s natural treasures and the economic benefits they help to support for generations to come,” they concluded.
January 2018, former Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke held an impromptu press
conference with former Governor Rick Scott. During the press conference, Zinke
announced that Florida would not be included in the new OCS Oil and Gas leasing
program and would be exempt from offshore drilling. The Governor used this
moment to align himself with opponents of offshore drilling. Scott then went on
to beat incumbent Senator Bill Nelson, a longtime environmental advocate and
critic of offshore drilling.
To commemorate the one year anniversary of the joint Zinke-Scott press conference, the Tampa Bay Times published an editorial making one thing clear: the future of offshore drilling in Florida is still uncertain. Officials, including former Secretary Zinke, have flip flopped on whether Florida is, in fact, exempt from the offshore drilling plan. There has also been discussion about what that exemption would actually entail. Scott, a former proponent of offshore drilling, will play a major role in determining the future of Florida’s coastline. Senator Scott must support extending the eastern gulf moratorium as it is the only way to guarantee that Florida’s coast is protected. The Editorial board concludes their piece by calling for Senator Scott to “be specific and unreserved about his opposition to drilling” and to work with the Florida delegation, in a bipartisan way, to protect their coast.
As the federal government works to expand offshore drilling, they are simultaneously rolling back safety standards put in place to prevent disasters like the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Matthew Brown, from the Associated Press, recently published an article analyzing these rollbacks.
Following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, the Obama administration called together a commission to study the causes of this disaster and produce a report on their findings. From the commission’s findings, regulations were created to prevent future catastrophic oil spills. To date, numerous important safety measures have been, or are in the process of being, rolled back including the Production Safety Systems Rule and the Well Control Rule. The Production Safety Systems Rule revision was finalized last year and no longer requires independent third party inspection of certain safety and pollution prevention equipment on offshore oil rigs. The Well Control Rule revisions are currently underway and propose “more flexibility in how companies meet safety and equipment standards.”
The Trump administration argues that these regulations are unnecessary and the revisions to these regulations will save industry more than a billion dollars. Nonetheless, another oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico could threaten Florida’s clean coast economy which supports 609,899 jobs and generates $37.4 billion in GDP. This begs the question: why would we movein the direction of loosening our regulations and putting Florida’s coastal economies at risk?
Back on November 6, 2018, Floridians took their opposition to the polls and voted, overwhelmingly, to amend their state constitution and make permanent a ban on offshore drilling in state waters. However, even with this new ban, many Floridians—including mayor Alan Johnson of St. Pete Beach—doubt that Florida’s coast will truly be protected from offshore drilling.
While Amendment 9 protects the immediate 3 miles off Florida’s coast, it does nothing to protect more than 200 miles of federal waters surrounding Florida. Of particular concern is the military mission line (MML), established in 2006 to ensure that military testing areas in Florida’s Gulf coast are protected from offshore drilling. If the 116th Congress does not extend the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA), which established the MML, it will expire in 2022. The expiration of GOMESA would put areas critical to United States military preparedness at risk of oil drilling and spills associated with oil activities.
January, U.S. Rep. Francis Rooney, a Republican from Southwest Florida and
outspoken opponent of offshore drilling in Florida waters, was quick to
introduce a bill to “permanently ban oil and gas leasing, preleasing, and
related activities in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.” This bill would ensure that
the moratorium remain in place beyond 2022. U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, a
Democrat from Tampa, cosponsored Rooney’s bill. This type of bi-partisan
opposition to offshore drilling is common throughout Florida.
Not only did
nearly 70 percent of Floridians—Republicans and Democrats—vote for Amendment 9,
but 79 Florida municipalities have also passed resolutions opposing offshore
drilling. Floridians know that offshore drilling threatens their livelihoods
and our nation’s military readiness, and they have repeatedly shown their opposition
to offshore drilling activities. The FGCBC will continue to serve as the
unified business voice against offshore drilling, and we will fight to protect
the moratorium on drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.