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, robin@tampabaybeaches.com

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 http://www.protectthegulfcoast.org 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, Robin@tampabaybeaches.com  


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.

Federal lawyers: Gulf oil leak spills much more than thought

Associated Press, 9/17/2018

By: Jeff Amy and Michael Kunzelman

Federal government lawyers say a 14-year-old leak is releasing much more oil each day into the Gulf of Mexico than officials previously claimed, and it may be getting worse.

A Friday court filing in a case involving Taylor Energy Co. says 10,000 to 30,000 gallons (37,000 to 113,000 liters) daily is leaking from multiple wells around a drilling platform toppled by 2004′s Hurricane Ivan.

That estimate if far above the 16,000 gallons (60,500 liters) of oil that the U.S. Coast Guard estimated in 2015 had been spotted in slicks over seven months.

“There has been an uptrend of the areas of the slick during the last two years,” wrote Oscar Pineda-Garcia, who runs a company that maps oil spills and is an adjunct professor at Florida State University.

New Orleans-based Taylor said only 2 to 3 gallons was leaking daily out of mud on the seafloor. Spokesman Todd Ragusa said the company disputes the government’s new estimate and will respond in court.

“The government’s recent filing is completely contrary to the comprehensive, sound science acquired by world-renowned experts, including those regularly relied upon by the government,” Ragusa wrote in an email to The Associated Press.

2015 AP investigation revealed evidence that the leak was worse than the company, or government, had publicly reported during their secretive response. Presented with AP’s findings that year, the Coast Guard provided a new leak estimate that was about 20 times larger than one cited by the company in a 2015 court filing.

Friday’s court filing also says Taylor and the Coast Guard met in August and discussed plugging more wells as part of an effort to eliminate the persistent oil sheen seen at the site. The wellheads are more than 400 feet (120 meters) underwater and buried under 60 to 100 feet (20 to 30 meters) of mud.

“The trust requires — and has always required — that Taylor complete all of its decommissioning obligations before the trust can terminate. The United States’ denial of Taylor’s request for a release from its existing obligations does not constitute an imposition of a new obligation,” the lawyers wrote.

Waves whipped up by Ivan triggered an underwater mudslide that buried a cluster of oil wells under treacherous mounds of sediment. In 2011, the company finished drilling a series of “intervention wells” to plug nine of the wells.

Using Coast Guard pollution reports, West Virginia-based watchdog group SkyTruth estimated in December that between roughly 855,000 gallons (3.2 million liters) and nearly 4 million gallons (15.1 million liters) of oil spilled from the site between 2004 and 2017.

Garcia writes in his report that the oil is thick enough that people need to wear respirators because of fumes. He says bubbles of not just oil, but natural gas is reaching the surface, while his report shows pictures of thick, brown oil emulsions in some places.

One more time. No oil drilling near Florida | South Florida Sun Sentinel Editorial

The editorial board of the South Florida Sun Sentinel takes a stand on the latest effort by the American Petroleum Institute to drill off Florida’s Gulf Coast.

Like red tide, the push for more drilling near Florida’s beaches is relentless and dangerous.

The latest effort comes from the American Petroleum Institute in the form of a “coalition” called Explore Offshore. In a lame attempt to deflect criticism, the group claims that it wants merely to find out what oil and gas might be available in areas that currently are off-limits.

Those areas include almost any site within 125 miles of Florida’s coast on the Gulf of Mexico and anywhere off the coast on the Atlantic Ocean. Protection for the beaches on which Florida’s tourism industry relies long has been one of the few bipartisan causes in this state. The Department of Defense also supports the gulf prohibition so it can conduct national security tests.

Yet the industry won’t give up. Three weeks ago, Explore Offshore rolled out a campaign that presumes Floridians have short memories.

Jeff Kottkamp is co-chairman in Florida for Explore Offshore. The former state legislator was Charlie Crist’s lieutenant governor in April 2010, when BP’s Deepwater Horizon rig exploded off Louisiana.

Yet Kottkamp claimed that no oil reached Florida. That statement would surprise residents of the Panhandle, where heavy oil arrived in late June. Tarballs hit beaches. Local boaters had been skimming oil. Families planning trips after the school year cancelled. So did June brides. Fishing bans further hurt tourism. BP’s settlement with Florida totaled $3.2 billion.

In an interview with the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board, Kottkamp – who said he is receiving no compensation from Explore Offshore – tried to walk back that comment. “We got some oil,” Kottkamp said, “but the pictures in the coverage just made it look horrible.”

For those directly affected, it was horrible. And to refresh Kottkamp’s memory, what remains the world’s largest accidental oil spill could have been catastrophic for much of Florida.

Oil from the Deepwater Horizon explosion got to within 30 miles of the Gulf of Mexico Loop Current. It moves five times faster than other waters in the gulf. Had oil reached it, the current would have carried the oil to the Florida Keys and South Florida. In May 2010, Palm Beach County officials were preparing for such a scenario.

We asked Kottkamp about that close call. He said, “I used to be more in touch with all those facts.”

Explore Offshore’s campaign comes amid controversy about President Trump’s plan to open almost all federal water to drilling and whether Florida would receive an exemption. In January, during a staged event in Tallahassee meant to look spontaneous, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke declared Florida “off the table.”

We were suspicious of that pledge and remain so. Zinke held the event with Gov. Rick Scott, who is running against U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson. It came just five days after Trump announced his plan. Scott has favored expanded offshore drilling. Nelson sponsored the legislation that extended the 125-mile Gulf of Mexico ban until 2022.

Here’s more reason for suspicion. Politico reported last month that “Zinke and Scott were careful to ‘not say the entire Eastern Gulf,’ was off the table” in January. “There are some Republicans who are prepared to make a deal. Seventy-five miles is the expected buffer, but folks might be willing to throw it a little further.”

Kottkamp said he would not support any plan that makes oil rigs visible from the shore. He added, “The industry has learned a whole lot from the (BP) spill. There is improved safety.”

Actually, the industry seems to have learned nothing. After hearing from lobbyists, Trump proposed weakening two safety rules that emerged from the work of a commission that studied the BP spill. One was designed specifically to prevent another blowout similar to the Deepwater Horizon.

Though Kottkamp maintains that he supports just an investigation of what oil might be accessible, Explore Offshore’s website gives away the group’s goal. A fact sheet lists the supposed economic benefits over 20 years of increased oil and gas drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Fortunately, at this point, opposition remains bipartisan. Democrat Nelson wants to extend the 125-mile limit until 2027. So does Florida’s other senator, Republican Marco Rubio. Matt Gaetz, the Republican who represents the Panhandle in Congress, fears the threat expanded oil and gas exploration would pose for the military’s Gulf Test Range.

Further drilling, Gaetz said, “would be devastating to our national security. I don’t have a nuanced view on this. I am opposed.”

The industry cites national security as a reason for expanded drilling. We believe Florida’s security is the reason to say no.

Editorials are the opinion of the Sun Sentinel Editorial Board and written by one of its members or a designee. The Editorial Board consists of Editorial Page Editor Rosemary O’Hara, Andy Reid and Editor-in-Chief Julie Anderson.


Deepwater Horizon oil spill didn’t really hurt Florida, pro-drilling leaders say

Not only did Florida see oil on our beaches, countless business were adversely effected by the perception that Florida’s beaches were closed for business due to the Deepwater Disaster. That’s why the Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition is working hard to protect our coast from any new drilling in the Eastern Gulf. It’s simply not worth the risk

Tampa Bay Times, 8/27/2018

By Craig Pittman

Former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp caused a furor recently when he claimed oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster “didn’t even reach the shores of Florida.”

He now admits he was wrong. Sort of.

“I guess I overstated it,” said Kottkamp, now leading a group seeking to open the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil exploration, said in an interview this week with the Tampa Bay Times.

His attempt to walk back the remark could offer a preview of the campaign to come as groups push to expand drilling in federal waters eight years later. He and another industry representative say the BP oil spill was more of a public relations disaster fueled by the television news media, rather than an environmental disaster.

“Obviously, yeah, we had some oil, but nothing like what was being reported,” said Kottkamp, who was lieutenant governor at the time of the spill. “You would have thought that the entire state was covered in oil.”

That comes as news to some of those who lived through it.

“I’ve got a few pictures I could show him,” said Escambia County Commissioner Grover Robinson IV, a fellow Republican whose district includes Pensacola Beach. “I was there. I saw it.”

Kottkamp made his original comments at an Aug. 15 Tallahassee news conference intended to introduce a new industry-backed group, Explore Offshore. The national organization advocates for allowing oil companies to investigate new places to drill in federal waters that are now off-limits. In the Gulf of Mexico, federal waters start 9 miles offshore.

Kottkamp is Explore Offshore’s Florida co-chair. When he claimed that offshore drilling is so safe that BP’s oil didn’t taint Florida’s beaches, reporters asked Kottkamp how he could say such a thing given all the photos of tarballs in 2010. His reply: “Tarballs are naturally occurring.”

RELATED: Florida to receive $3.25B from gulf states’ Deepwater Horizon settlement with BP

Kottkamp’s comments, published by the online news organization Florida Phoenix, stirred social media outrage. Politico Florida reported he was “catching heat.” The Gainesville Sun ran an editorial accusing him and Explore Offshore of using “alternative facts” to mislead the public about the dangers of offshore drilling.

Frank Jackalone, director of Sierra Club Florida, scoffed at Kottkamp’s effort to backpedal on his original, erroneous statement about the oil.

“It wasn’t an exaggeration — it was a lie,” he said. “There was oil on Pensacola Beach and Navarre Beach and Fort Walton Beach. People who saw it know better.”

David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council, which is one of Explore Offshore’s backers, contends Kottkamp’s words were taken out of context by reporters. He agreed with Kottkamp that the BP spill wasn’t all that bad.

“Florida was largely unaffected,” he said.

Like Kottkamp, Mica said the damage done by the BP spill was due more to “a lot of bad publicity — more by perception than anything that happened. … Perception was a bigger problem than the actual oil on the beaches.”

As for Kottkamp’s original response to the question about tarballs on Panhandle beaches, Mica said, “Well, there are a lot of naturally occurring tarballs.”

Five years after oil from the Deepwater Horizon disaster tainted the Panhandle’s sugar-white beaches, petroleum giant BP agreed to an $18.7 billion settlement with Florida, four other gulf states and the federal government. Florida’s share was estimated at $3.25 billion, about $2 billion of which was for the state’s economic losses, primarily from tourism and the seafood industry.

Business and local governments far from the spill indeed collected millions in BP settlement money, in part due to the tourism hit throughout the state. St. Petersburg collected $8 million, Hillsborough County $28.5 million. But Escambia County, which got more oil than any other county, was awarded $70 million.

Robinson, the Escambia commissioner, laughed bitterly when told about Kottkamp’s comments. First elected in 2006, he personally witnessed the damage the oil did to his region’s beaches — both to the environment and to the economy as tourists canceled reservations at local hotels, charter boat captains lost customers, waterfront real estate sales fell apart and beach weddings were moved elsewhere.

He suggested that Explore Offshore was attempting to make the Panhandle and its suffering seem less important to the rest of Florida than if it had hit the southern part of the state.

“Pensacola Beach is just as much a part of Florida as Miami Beach and Clearwater Beach,” said Robinson, who chaired the 23-county Gulf Consortium created after the spill to guide Florida’s spending of the BP settlement money.

Based on what happened eight years ago, he said, the Escambia County Commission is firmly opposed not only to offshore drilling but even checking to see what oil and gas resources might exist in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

“The way Florida depends on its beaches for its tourism resources, petroleum drilling is just incompatible,” he said.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster began with a deadly explosion on April 20, 2010, and grew worse from there. The oil rig 150 miles off the Louisiana coast — and about 100 miles away from Florida — blew up, killing 11 people and injuring 17. The rig sank, and two days later oil began gushing from 5,000 feet below the Gulf of Mexico’s surface.

Oil washed up on the coasts of Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and eventually, in June, reached Florida. Thousands of shiny, reddish-brown globs, some as big as Frisbees, tainted the sugar-white beaches across eight counties, while tar mats the size of throw rugs floated just offshore.

Every day for weeks, tens of thousands of workers in hard hats, hazmat suits and steel-toed boots weaved among the stunned beachgoers, scooping up the glop. Last year the National Institutes of Health reported that workers who came into contact with the oil were more susceptible to health woes than the general population.

RELATED: Seven years after explosion and oil spill, study finds cleanup workers got sicker. 

BP wasn’t able to shut off the flow until July. An estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil had spewed out and spread through the gulf. Some of it settled on the sea floor, and there it lies still, according to studies by University of South Florida scientists.

Kottkamp’s boss in 2010 was then-Gov. Charlie Crist, who personally visited Pensacola Beach to see the oil.

Crist, now a congressman representing the Tampa Bay area, avoided criticizing Kottkamp directly but disagreed with his comments.

“It did hit the state,” Crist said. “I saw it myself. … It was frightening.”
Seeing the BP spill and its effects convinced him to oppose any drilling near Florida, he said.

RELATED: Scientists still learning from Deepwater Horizon disaster. 

Explore Offshore is just getting started with its national advocacy campaign. Mica, who was at the kickoff news conference in Tallahassee, contended that despite the controversy over Kottkamp’s comments, “I thought it went pretty well.”

Contact Craig Pittman at craig@tampabay.com. Follow @craigtimes.

Oil Industry Targets Florida in new Offshore Drilling Advocacy Push

Fire boat response crews battle the blazing remnants of the off shore oil rig Deepwater Horizon April 21.

City of Tallahassee, Florida– Despite fierce and vocal opposition from Florida residents and businesses, the oil industry is continuing its aggressive campaign to promote drilling off our coasts. As detailed in a recent article in The Hill, the American Petroleum Institute’s Explore Offshore coalition is spearheading lobbying efforts to push offshore drilling along Florida’s coast.

During the press event and rollout of Explore Offshore, former Florida Lt. Governor Jeff Kottkamp told a room full of reporters in Tallahassee that oil from the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill “didn’t even reach the shores of Florida.” This false claim is a big problem for the Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition. Not only is that statement simply untrue, it also leaves out the devastating impacts and economic losses the state of Florida faced following the disaster.

While the industry claims that limits on offshore drilling are “disallowing hundreds of thousands of American jobs,” this statement fails to acknowledge the existing 2.6 million jobs that are supported by fishing, tourism and recreation along the Atlantic, Pacific and Florida Gulf coasts. In Florida alone, these industries support 609,899 jobs and generate $37.4 billion in GDP. It is senseless for our thriving coastal economies—and the millions of existing jobs they support—to be put at risk.

A single oil spill could devastate the strong coastal economies that our businesses rely on. The effects of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon spill are still felt today, and we refuse to open our coasts up to the threat of this kind of devastation again.

The Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition will continue to fight against any attempts to allow for drilling off our cherished coasts.