Chamber, legislators stand firm on Gulf oil-drilling ban

© OCEANA / Juan Cuetos

Citrus County Chronicle, 10/25/2018

By: Michael D. Bates

Citrus County Chamber of Commerce President Josh Wooten remembers 2010 very well: the Deepwater Horizon oil spill killed 11 men on a drilling rig and spewed about 134 million gallons of oil into waters off Louisiana.

Citrus County was spared the worst of the fallout from the spill, but the disaster made headlines far enough away that tourists shunned Florida, fearing all the state’s waters were contaminated with black goo.

Citrus County officials redoubled marketing efforts to assure tourists that businesses were open and the waters here were fine.

“Just the thought of oil coming on to our beaches affects our economy,” Wooten said.

So it’s no wonder Wooten is opposed to rumblings that President Donald Trump’s administration could lift a federal oil drilling moratorium in the eastern Gulf of Mexico that went into effect following the Deepwater incident and is set to expire in 2022.

Wooten said he is encouraged that Citrus County’s legislators — state Sen. Wilton Simpson, R-Trilby, state Rep. Ralph Massullo, R-Lecanto, and U.S. Rep. Daniel Webster, R-Winter Garden — oppose oil drilling off Florida’s coast and support extending the moratorium.

“Our delegation is strongly opposed,” Wooten said. “For Florida, it would be devastating.”

The problem, Wooten said, is that there are 435 members of Congress and many support lifting the moratorium.

“The vast majority of them are not affected by drilling in the Gulf,” Wooten said.

The Citrus County Chamber of Commerce recently passed a resolution opposing relaxation of offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico and has joined with a coalition of other area chambers and business groups to strengthen that stance.

And the local chamber joined the Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition (FGCBC), which opposes lifting the moratorium.

The risk is too great that a major oil spill would do untold damage to marine life, tourism and businesses, Wooten said.

The moratorium prevents oil drilling within 125 miles of Florida’s Gulf Coast.

On Nov. 6, people will vote on Amendment 9, which would ban oil drilling in state waters and ban vaping from electronic devices in the same indoor workplaces where smoking is now prohibited.

The pairing of these two initiatives for environmental reasons has led to head-scratching among some, and Wooten acknowledged that it might hurt the amendment’s chances.

Webster is in favor of extending the eastern Gulf moratorium before it expires in 2022, but does not  support Amendment 9 because he believes the policies proposed do not belong in the Florida Constitution.

That amendment, should it pass, would ban drilling within the first 9 miles off Florida’s coastlines, Webster said. Oil companies have not proposed coming any closer than 25 miles anyway, he said.

“If (this amendment) actually did something, I could probably be for it,” Webster said. “But in this particular case, it doesn’t do anything.”

Hunter Miller, who, along with Loryn Baughman, works at the Washington D.C.-based Oceana advocacy group, met with the Chronicle Editorial Board on Wednesday and stressed that the lifting of the moratorium would adversely affect tourism, which he called Citrus County’s “bread and butter.”

Miller said the Trump administration has also discussed removing third-party monitoring of oil and gas operations and allowing them to self-report.

That, said Miller, is analogous to the wolf guarding the hen house.

“Third-party inspections and monitoring is the least we can do,” said Miller said.

Miller and Baughman are visiting with municipalities along Florida’s west coast to stress the importance of keeping the stricter oil drilling regulations in place given federal attempts to make what they called backroom deals to remove the eastern Gulf drilling moratorium.

“We’ve got to stay strong and hold the line and don’t make any deals,” Miller said.

The National Ocean Industries Association, an offshore drilling industry trade group, praised Trump’s proposed relaxing of safety regulations.

“The revisions develop a rule that reduces unnecessary burdens placed on industry, while still maintaining world-class safety and environmental protections,” NOIA President Randall Luthi said in a statement. “We have a rule that is not a safety rollback, but instead incorporates modern technological advances.”

But FGCBC Chairman Robin Miller said the Deepwater oil spill resulted in the loss of 10 million user-days of beach, fishing and boating activity, and the impact of the oil spill on fisheries could total $8.7 billion by 2020.

“We will not allow additional offshore drilling to threaten our businesses and the healthy coasts that they rely on,” said Miller, also president/CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce.

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An oil spill you’ve never heard of could become one of the biggest environmental disasters in the US

CNN, 10/24/2018

By: AJ Willingham

© Georgia Department of Natural Resources

In 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil tragedy commanded the nation’s attention for months. Eleven lives were lost and communities around the Gulf of Mexico ground to a halt under hundreds of millions of gallons of oil. Yet, lurking underneath the fresh disaster, an older spill was spewing ever faithfully forth: A leak that began when another oil platform was damaged six years earlier.

The Taylor oil spill is still surging after all this time; dumping what’s believed to be tens of thousands of gallons into the Gulf per day since 2004. By some estimates, the chronic leak could soon be larger, cumulatively, than the Deepwater disaster, which dumped up to 176.4 million gallons (or 4.2 million barrels) of oil into the Gulf. That would also make the Taylor spill one of the largest offshore environmental disasters in US history.

In September, the Department of Justice submitted an independent study into the nature and volume of the spill that claims previous evaluations of the damage, submitted by the platform’s owner Taylor Energy Co. and compiled by the Coast Guard, significantly underestimated the amount of oil being let loose. According to the filing, the Taylor spill is spewing anywhere from 10,000 to 30,000 gallons of oil a day.

As for how much oil has been leaked since the beginning of the spill, it’s hard to say. An estimate from SkyTruth, a satellite watchdog organization, put the total at 855,000 to 4 million gallons by the end of 2017. If you do the math from the DOJ’s filing, the number comes out astronomically higher: More than 153 million gallons over 14 years.

Dr. Oscar Garcia-Pineda, who authored the DOJ’s commissioned analysis, declined to comment to CNN, citing ongoing litigation.

A community called to action

Marylee Orr is the executive director of the Louisiana Environmental Action Network (LEAN). She says in 2010, people conducting aerial surveillance near the BP oil spill started to notice another shape, a shadow of an oil slick adjacent to the main spill that didn’t seem to match up.

“They said it couldn’t have been coming from the BP spill, and sure enough, it wasn’t,” she told CNN. “It was coming from the Taylor Well.”

Orr says it was difficult for the community to get answers as to what was happening with the spill. Local organizations, including LEAN, began conducting flyovers of the area, compiling data and pressuring Taylor Energy for answers.

“We had to do a lot of research ourselves to find out about it,” she says. “How long is it? How wide is it? These are the things we struggled with. I feel like our organization, and other folks and other organizations, made it an issue.”

“In 2010, nobody really knew. And maybe no one would know now, if there weren’t citizens and non-profit organizations who were just trying to be good stewards,” she says.

In 2012, LEAN, along with the Apalachicola Riverkeeper and several other Louisiana environmental organizations, filed suit against Taylor Energy, kicking off years of litigation between activist organizations, the oil company and various government entities. Taylor settled the lawsuit with LEAN, et. al in 2015.

Taylor Energy liquidated its oil and gas assets and ceased production and drilling in 2008. CNN has reached out toTaylor Energy for comment and has not received a response.

In a 2015 complaint filed in relation to the joint suit involving LEAN, Taylor Energy claimed the sheen at the site of the Taylor spill was “residual” and “there is no evidence to suggest” an ongoing leak. The company also claimed it had been fully compliant with US Coast Guard regulations regarding the spill.

A problem floating right under the radar

John Amos, the founder of SkyTruth, says the Taylor oil spill is a problem that’s been well-known to people in the area for years, but for some reason or another hasn’t managed to stay the national conversation.

“This is one of those dirty little stories that has been hidden for too long,” he tells CNN. “That’s the problem with these chronic, slow-moving things. They don’t slap you in the face like the BP oil spill did.”

SkyTruth has been compiling the Coast Guard’s data on the Taylor oil spill for years and using simple math to estimate the volume of oil being released.

The way it works, Amos explains, is that companies who are responsible for significant spills report the spill to the National Response Center, which is operated by the Coast Guard. The company then submits mandatory reports from regular aerial measurements of the spill, which appears to the naked eye as an iridescent sheen on the water.

To get a general idea of how much oil all of these measurements account for, Amos and his team combine the measurements with the estimated minimum thickness the oil needs to be to cast such a sheen. That number, they decided, was one micron: One one-millionth of a meter.

That one tiny, almost infinitesimal amount, expanded over thousands of feet and years of leakage, balloons to catastrophic proportions. In December 2017, SkyTruth put the composite estimate of the Taylor oil spill at 855,000 to 3,981,000 gallons.

That estimate, Amos says, is almost assuredly too low.

“The key weakness in our estimates is they are based on the reporting from the company,” he says — reporting that the Department of Justice has said was extremely under-representative.

Amos is familiar with Department of Justice’s commissioned report and says the analysis based estimates of the Taylor oil spill on satellite imagery, as opposed to Taylor Energy’s submitted reports. The discrepancies were severe. Some of the resulting measurements of the oil leakage were 17 times larger than Taylor Energy’s initial estimates.

An impact that’s hard to measure

While the numbers clearly show the Taylor oil spill is approaching, if not exceeding, the volume of the BP oil spill, that doesn’t mean the environmental impact is the same.

“This is oil that’s leaked out slowly and steadily over time, so the impact on the environment is very different,” Amos says. “One of the vexing things about the Taylor spill is that the consequences of this have been kept under wraps. There hasn’t been much public or political pressure to do the research to figure out what the damage is from a long-term, chronic leak.”

There are other impacts to consider as well: Impacts on corporate accountability, regulations and transparency in the oil industry and the viability and risks of offshore drilling, to name a few. At a time when the White House has expressed interest in expanding offshore drilling and various states have put forth strong plans of opposition — such as Oregon, where Gov. Kate Brown has just announced a plan to ban offshore drilling along Oregon’s coast, the Taylor oil spill is poised to remain a painfully relevant, if not overdue, touchstone.

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FGCBC Holds Successful Press Event

Today the Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition (FGCBC) hosted a press conference to announce its launch with a membership representing more than 2,000 businesses committed to protecting Florida’s Gulf Coast from the expansion of offshore drilling. The event included business leaders and elected officials all committed to preventing offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Video of the press conference can be seen here.

Hunter Miller, Oceana’s Southwest Florida Campaign Organizer, kicked off the event and highlighted FGCBC’s commitment to preventing the expansion of offshore drilling. Robin Miller, CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber and Chair of the FGCBC, followed Hunter Miller and discussed the coalition’s opposition to offshore drilling. Robin Miller advocated that we “stop our motion of drilling in our Gulf Coast and protect, not only our coastline, but our businesses that rely on the economy that tourism brings to our destination.” She went on to introduce the other speakers:  Congressman Charlie Crist, Keith Overton (President of TradeWinds Island Resorts) David Yates (CEO of the Clearwater Marine Aquarium), and State Senator, Jeff Brandes.

All speakers highlighted the importance of protecting Florida’s coast from dangerous drilling that could ruin the state’s shorelines and economy. David Yates also discussed the importance of passing Florida Amendment 9 which would prevent offshore oil and gas drilling in Florida’s state waters. Other event attendees and FGCBC members included: Alan Johnson (Mayor St Pete Beach), Missy Hahn (CEO of Treasure Island & Madeira Beach Chamber), Jana Wiggins (Owner/CEO AccuDocs) and Sheri Hellman (Owner of Beachcomber Clearwater, FL).

Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition Announces its Official Launch



Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce> — Robin Miller, (727) 360-6957,

Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition Announces its Official Launch

Gulf Coast Businesses Unite to Protect the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and Prevent the Expansion of Offshore Drilling

St. Pete Beach, Florida – Today, the Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition (FGCBC) announced its official launch. The FGCBC is a diverse coalition of businesses interests committed to protecting Florida’s Gulf Coast from the threats of expanded offshore oil and gas activities.

Formed in response to efforts by the federal government to open nearly all U.S. waters to new offshore oil drilling, the FGCBC unifies business voice in support of protecting Florida’s Gulf Coast from the devastation of oil and gas exploration. The federal moratorium on drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico ensures drilling does not get one inch closer to our shores. The coalition aims to replicate the success of the Businesses Alliance to Protect the Atlantic Coast (BAPAC)—an influential coalition of more than 42,000 business and 500,000 commercial fishing families that are opposing expanded drilling along the Atlantic coast.

“The FGCBC is a powerful collection of people and businesses who have the most to lose under these dangerous new plans. The business community along Florida’s Gulf Coast still remembers the devastating impacts of the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010. This tragedy resulted in the loss of 10 million user-days of beach, fishing and boating activity, and the impact of the oil spill on fisheries could total $8.7 billion by 2020. We will not allow additional offshore drilling to threaten our businesses and the healthy coasts that they rely on,” says Robin Miller, President/CEO, Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, Chair, FGCBC.

Tourism is the major economic driver in the state of Florida, with beaches attracting roughly 113 million tourists. Florida’s Gulf Coast supports 304,556 jobs and generates nearly $18 billion in GDP through fishing, tourism and recreation industries. Healthy beaches and clean water mean growing businesses and creating jobs. Florida’s Gulf Coast is also home to key military bases, including Eglin Air Force Base, Tyndall Air Force Base, MacDill Air Force Base and the Naval Air Station Key West, whose military maneuvers could be disrupted by offshore drilling and potential oil spills. Further, the Florida Defense Support Task Force – which is charged with making recommendations to preserve and protect military installations – has found that allowing expanded drilling would mean loss of range areas and possible relocation of aircraft/bases to other unrestricted range areas. The missions of these bases are not only critical to our national security and military readiness, but they also provide a $84.9 billion annual economic impact, and account for 801,747 jobs in Florida.

FGCBC’s growing membership includes a variety of businesses ranging from hospitality and outdoor recreation to environmental consulting and renewable energy companies. All levels of involvement are welcome. Become a member of FGCBC today and help protect the eastern Gulf of Mexico from the impacts of offshore drilling. Visit and join the coalition today for free.

Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition Launches October 16, 2018

FGCBC Media Advisory






For Immediate Release: October 10, 2018

Contact: Robin Miller, 727-360-6957,  


MEDIA ADVISORY & DAYBOOK ITEM for Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Gulf Coast Business Leaders to Launch Coalition to Protect Coast from Offshore Drilling

More than 2,000 Gulf Coast Businesses United Against Dirty and Dangerous Offshore Drilling

St. Pete Beach, Florida – The Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition (FGCBC) will publicly launch its alliance against the expansion of dirty and dangerous offshore oil drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast. The press conference will be held at Tradewinds Islands Grand Resort in St. Pete Beach, Florida on Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at 10:30 am.

Representing more than 2,000 businesses, chambers and associations, the FGCBC works to ensure offshore drilling does not come one mile closer to Florida’s coast and opposes any new drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Current efforts to expand offshore drilling threatens over 304,000 jobs and roughly $17.5 billion in GDP from Florida’s Gulf Coast fishing, tourism and recreation sectors. Numerous chambers of commerce, businesses and elected officials will be in attendance at the event.


Robin Miller, President and CEO Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce

David Yates, CEO Clearwater Marine Aquarium

Rep. Charlie Crist, U.S. Representative (D-FL 13)

(more to be announced…)

WHEN: Tuesday, October 16, 2018 at 10:30 am

WHERE: Tradewinds Islands Grand Resort, 5500 Gulf Blvd, St. Pete Beach, FL 33706. Event to be held on resort beachfront.


 Earlier this year, the Trump administration announced its plans to open nearly all U.S. waters to offshore drilling activities. In a new draft five-year program (2019-2024) for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), the Department of the Interior (DOI) outlined its plans to expand future oil and gas leasing to nearly all U.S. waters, the largest number of potential offshore lease sales ever proposed.

The Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition seeks to serve as a business voice to protect the Gulf Coast of Florida. The group was formed because offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is fundamentally at odds with our coastal economy and way of life, our thriving businesses that are reliant upon healthy ocean ecosystems, and is incompatible with the military mission in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. The FGCBC recognizes the importance of a unified business voice in protecting our coastal economies.

Pensacola area worried about Trump Administration’s moves to relax offshore drilling rules

Pensacola News Journal, 10/08/2018

By: Melissa Nelson Gabriel

© Oceana

Pensacola City Manager Keith Wilkins doesn’t hesitate to offer his opinion on recent moves by the Trump Administration to ease regulations on the offshore drilling industry.

“It’s not good,” said Wilkins, who has a degree in environmental studies and was Escambia County’s director of environmental resources in 2010 when BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded off the Louisiana coast, killing 11 men and spewing nearly 5 million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

The massive spill, which coated beaches from Perdido Key to Navarre with thick globs of weathered oil, could happen again, said Wilkins, who has prior experience working as logging engineer offshore.

“The oil industry is already very reliant on self-monitoring,” Wilkins said. “What is happening is that more self-monitoring and self-reporting is being allowed in an industry where more third-party oversight and government oversight is actually needed.”

Under plans approved by the Trump Administration last month and set to take effect on Dec. 27, a requirement for third-party inspections of offshore drilling safety equipment would be dropped and replaced with testing and documentation by equipment operators.

The changes are part of a 48-page notice from the federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. The notice stated that some Obama-era drilling regulations had created “unduly burdensome requirements on oil and natural gas production operators.” The notice also stated that the requirements failed to meaningfully increase safety.

Randal Luthi, president of the National Ocean Industries Association, which represents offshore drilling companies, said the moves makes sense.

MoreCleanup of Bayou Chico, Santa Rosa Sound expected with new RESTORE Act funding

“The revisions develop a rule that reduces the unnecessary burdens placed on industry, while still maintaining world-class safety and environmental protections,” Luthi said in a prepared statement.

But Christian Wagley, a Pensacola-area environmental activist and member of the Gulf Restoration Network, disagreed. Wagley served on Escambia County’s RESTORE advisory board, which guided political leaders in how to best spend environmental restitution money sent to the area from the BP sill.

Wagley noted that news of the Trump administration changes to the drilling regulations came at the same time state and local officials sent out news releases touting the fact that Florida is set to receive a nearly $300 million payment in RESTORE Act money because of the 2010 spill. The money comes from legal settlements paid by BP, Transocean and others found liable for violating the Clean Water Act and other environmental regulations.

MoreOn BP oil spill anniversary, Pensacola residents take stand against drilling

“These federal rollbacks make the oil and gas industry less safe and make us more likely to see another spill along the Gulf Coast,” he said. “The most dangerous part of this new rule is that it eliminates the requirement for third-part inspection of safety equipment. That puts rig workers and the environment at risk.”

Also opposing any changes to the Obama-era drilling regulations is Steve Jones of the national Center for Biological Diversity.

Floridians frequently get mixed messages from politicians about whether the state is indeed off limits to drilling or protected by a moratorium, he said.

“Moratoriums can expire and politicians can change,” he said. “It is dangerous to refuse to learn the lessons of Deepwater Horizon.”

And, Jones said, the 2010 spill showed drilling elsewhere in the Gulf can be devastating for Florida even if drilling isn’t allowed off the state’s coast.

“The oil industry should not be self regulated, it is too dirty, too dangerous and we know what can happen.”

Click here for the original article.

The Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition Welcomes the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce and Celebrates Their Approval of a Resolution Opposing Offshore Drilling


Naples, FLORIDA– The Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition (GCBC) is pleased to welcome the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce to our coalition and commend them for their approval of a resolution opposing offshore drilling. The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce is a business organization representing businesses and communities on the Collier County beaches. The chamber recently joined the Florida GCBC and passed their resolution on September 20, 2018.

The resolution voiced the chamber’s opposition to offshore drilling in Florida state waters and the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. It highlighted the fact that oil drilling off Florida’s coast not only threatens the state’s natural resources, but also jeopardizes Florida’s thriving tourism industry and housing market.

The Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce is one of several Florida chambers of commerce— including the Florida GCBC’s own Citrus County Chamber of Commerce, Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, and Destin Chamber of Commerce—who have also passed resolutions voicing their opposition to offshore oil drilling.

With the approval of their recent resolution, the Greater Naples Chamber of Commerce joined a growing movement of national opposition to offshore drilling. This movement includes over 300 East Coast municipalities, over 1,300 local, state and federal elected officials, and dozens of chambers of commerce nationwide.

Saving waters is a collective effort

Citrus County Chronicle, 9/19/2018

Josh Wooten, President and CEO of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce discusses the importance of saving our waters and highlights the chamber’s new membership into the FGCBC.

Josh Wooten (Credits: Citrus County Chronicle)


The Citrus County Chamber of Commerce is pleased to again participate in this important Save Our Waters Week discussion of water quality and quantity. Although we set aside this week every year in September to completely focus on saving our waters, it is truly such a critical part of our health, recreation and economy that it is never far from our minds the other 51 weeks of the year.

Without water, we cannot sustain life. Without clean water, we cannot maintain health. Without maintaining our local natural resources, our economy and wildlife will suffer.

Water quality and quantity are always a top priority of your chamber, and we work closely with our leaders to keep this all-important issue on the front burner.

We have shared the chamber’s commitment to the ongoing restoration projects in King’s Bay, Homosassa, and the Lakes Region of our county with our legislative delegation. Likewise, we are also proponents of the ongoing septic-to-sewer initiatives the state and county are embarking upon. We would be remiss if we did not express our gratitude to both Sen. Wilton Simpson and Rep. Ralph Massullo for their unwavering efforts in all of these projects.

Due to the dedicated work of groups like Save Our Waters, Save Crystal River, One Rake at a Time and the Homosassa River Alliance among others, Citrus County is becoming known throughout Florida as a place where our citizens take the initiative and do the hard work to help clean up our waters. With the recent issue our state is experiencing with red tide and toxic blue-green algae, perhaps all of Florida should take note of our positive action and results here in Citrus County.

Recently, the Chamber has also become engaged in the issue of offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. We were surprised to recently learn that the temporary federal ban is set to expire in 2020.

New offshore drilling proposals pose a direct threat to coastal tourism and local businesses that depend on a healthy and clean marine environment. We have joined with a number of other Tampa Bay area chambers and businesses as partners in the Gulf Coast Business Coalition, which is an alliance that has been created to speak with a united voice for the business communities and Gulf Coast counties opposing the lifting of the ban.

We are encouraged that our congressional delegation is unanimous in their support to keep the ban in place. However, certain members of Congress in other Gulf Coast states and across the country are not necessarily on the same page. It is important that we keep the pressure on these lawmakers to ensure that our precious Gulf waters remain safe.

Every voter will soon have an opportunity to let his or her voice be heard on this issue. On statewide ballots this November, voters will have the chance to vote on Amendment 9. Although Amendment 9 is a little convoluted in that it addresses both offshore drilling as well as vaping in the workplace, a “Yes” vote on this amendment will prohibit drilling beneath all state-owned waters between the mean high-water line and the state’s outermost territorial boundaries. Passage of Amendment 9 will go a long way in letting Washington know that Floridians are serious about protecting their environment and economy.

We can ill afford not to make every week “Save Our Waters Week.”

Josh Wooten is the President and CEO of the Citrus County Chamber of Commerce and a former Citrus County commissioner.