Florida Wildlife Federation Campaigns to Ban Near-Shore Oil Drilling off Florida’s Coast

Risks to state's coastal economy 'too great,' say local groups

11-10-2010 // Jon Brett
Bay Jimmy Oiled Grass

Prior to the Gulf oil disaster, Florida was well on its way to opening oil and gas exploration in near-shore waters. In reality, not long before the Deepwater Horizon rig begun to spew its toxic contents into the Gulf, the Florida House spent $200,000 (of taxpayer dollars) to conduct the Willis Group Study.

To summarize the findings of the Willis Study: it was argued that the pros of drilling as close as three miles from Florida’s coast far outweighed any possible cons for risks to the state’s delicate, and economically potent, coastline. In fact, Phil Ellis, chairman of Willis Global Energy, callously stated “the risk of damage to natural human habitats from hurricanes far outweighs anything that you'll ever see from this [oil exploration] industry.”

While the Gulf oil disaster may have stalled the opening of near-shore drilling in Florida, advocates of increased drilling are still pushing. To fight back, the citizen group Save Our Seas, Beaches and Shores (SOSBS), led by the Florida Wildlife Federation (FWF), has initiated a petition campaign to fight attempts to increase near-shore Florida drilling. The SOSBS campaign is seeking to place a state constitutional amendment on the 2012 ballot banning drilling as near as 3 miles from Florida’s coast. To do so, the SOSBS campaign needs to gather 700,000 signatures from Florida registered voters.

For Manley Fuller, chairman of SOSBS and president of the FWF, the bottom line is this: Florida’s coasts, beaches, and fisheries are far too vital to the state’s economic well-being to justify the risks that increased near-shore oil and gas exploration will bring.

"We really want to protect our coastal environment, and our coastal environment is linked to our coastal economy, which is a huge economic driver for Florida. We had a spill occur way out in the ocean. What if we had an accident right off the shore of Florida? That could be catastrophic," says Fuller.

According to Florida Tax Watch, tourism expenditures in Florida this year were expected to support 1.5-1.8 million jobs and $102-135 billion in annual economic output.

The SOSBS campaign needs your help! NWF members who are registered voters in Florida are urged to get involved by downloading the petition from the SOSBS website, making copies, signing petitions, and volunteering to collect signed petitions from Florida voters. Additionally, the FWF will gladly accept monetary contributions for FWF's coastal conservation work in general (which is a tax exempt gift), or you can donate specifically to this campaign (which is not tax exempt).

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