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Coastal Drilling: The League Position

For years Florida’s coasts have been protected by a ban on state-controlled waters (0-10miles off shore). However, new legislation was championed in the final days of the 2009 Legislative Session by Representative Cannon and Senator Haridopolos that would allow drilling in these previously protected waters. They did not get approval on the issue at that time, but it is currently working its way through committee with the possibility of being considered in the upcoming 2010 session.

The possibility that the offshore drilling ban would be lifted is currently being debated, and Leagues around the state are holding public forums. The following is an overview of the League’s long history, study and action on this issue. The League supported the establishment of the Florida Coastal Management Program and urged the Florida Congressional delegation to reauthorize the Coastal Zone Management Act, also supported the Coastal Barrier Resources Act, which supports limiting federal and state expenditures on undeveloped barrier islands. In 1986 the League supported the establishment of the coastal building zone and the next year opposed elimination of the 30-mile buffer around Florida’s coast for offshore oil drilling lease sales. In 1989 LWVF testified before the President’s Task Force on Offshore Oil Drilling requesting a three-year moratorium on oil drilling in the areas south of Latitude 26,where the Everglades and the Florida Keys would be in great danger from an oil spill. In 1993 LWVF went on record in opposition to a proposal to drill for oil on American Indian land in the Everglades. The oil company withdrew its application the following year.

Pressure to permit offshore natural gas drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico intensified in Congress with the accelerating rise in energy prices in summer 2005. The League encouraged Floridians to submit online petitions and engaged LWVUS in issuing nationwide action alerts to help Florida protect its coasts. The bill was withdrawn.

For many years, Florida’s elected leaders were united in their opposition to oil and gas drilling off Florida’s world-famous coast but in 2006 this was no longer the case. In December 2006 a bipartisan compromise was reached that opened much of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas exploration, while providing significant protections for Florida’s west coast over the next two decades. The compromise created a 125-mile, no-drilling zone off the Florida Panhandle, while the waters off Tampa Bay would be off-limits to drilling for 234 miles. The protections are to last through 2022.

The League advocates a national energy policy emphasizing increased fuel-efficiency standards for automobiles, opposition to oil drilling in environmentally sensitive areas including the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) and support for government action in the development and use of energy conservation and renewable energy sources.

In the 108th Congress, the Senate voted twice not to open ANWR to destructive oil drilling. The House, however, included drilling in its version of the Energy Bill. The LWVUS sent three Grassroots Lobby Corps alerts urging action in opposition to oil drilling in ANWR. The League also contacted selected state Leagues to encourage grassroots lobbying to protect ANWR.




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