U.S. House opposes oil drilling

Hands Across the Sand oil protest
Two months before the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, protestors drew a line in the sand against oil drilling on Anna Maria Island’s beaches. - Cindy Lane | Sun

The U.S. House of Representatives passed two bills banning oil drilling off the Gulf Coast of Florida and in the Atlantic and Pacific oceans on Sept. 11.

The Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act (H.R. 205) amends the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 to permanently block offshore oil and gas leasing off Florida’s Gulf Coast. The current moratorium, which protects waters up to 235 miles off the coast in the eastern Gulf, is set to expire in June 2022.

The Coastal and Marine Economies Protection Act (H.R. 1941) protects the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and the Florida Straits.

“Representatives (Joe) Cunningham (D-S.C.), (Francis) Rooney (R-Fla.) and (Kathy) Castor (D-Fla.) should be applauded for putting politics aside and coming together to protect our coasts from offshore drilling,” said Diane Hoskins, campaign director at Oceana, an international advocacy organization dedicated solely to ocean conservation.

Oceana representatives visited supporters in Holmes Beach last week, the day before the vote. The Anna Maria Island Chamber of Commerce, the Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition and Oceana drew dozens of supporters to the Protect Our Coast Happy Hour at Waterline Marina Resort and Beach Club in Holmes Beach on Sept. 10.

“Write letters to your newspaper,” Robin Miller, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce and Chair of the Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition told the group, urging them to join the coalition at http://www.protectthegulfcoast.org/.

More than 90% of U.S. waters, including Florida waters, are in the federal programs slated for oil and gas drilling and leasing, Hunter Miller, Oceana campaign organizer for the Florida Gulf Coast, told the group, adding that the Florida delegation is united against the practice.

The cities of Anna Maria, Holmes Beach and Bradenton Beach, as well as the Manatee County Commission, have expressed their opposition to plans to expand offshore drilling by passing resolutions, joining nearly 100 cities and towns across Florida.

Oceana is now calling on the Senate to make the legislation a reality and permanently protect U.S. coasts from the threat of expanded offshore drilling activities.

The “vote to permanently ban offshore drilling underscores the strength of bipartisan opposition to President Trump’s radical drilling plan. Opening nearly all our waters to dirty and dangerous drilling is out of touch with every East and West coast governor,” Hoskins said in a press release.

“Offshore drilling threatens our fishing, tourism and recreation industries and everyone who calls the coast home. But the fight is not over, and we must not give up until permanent protections are established or President Trump’s plan is officially off the table.”

“I have consistently opposed drilling off the coast of Florida and was a co-sponsor of the bill that passed permanently banning all drilling off the Gulf Coast,” Rep. Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) said in a press release.

“This bill also included my amendment to restore critical safety regulations adopted in response to Deepwater Horizon. As Floridians know all too well, an oil spill can devastate a regional economy and inflict long-term environmental damage. Southwest Florida is blessed with some of the world’s greatest natural treasures. We cannot allow our beaches, wildlife and way of life to be threatened by another oil spill.”

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