Florida Proposal Aims to Ban Nearshore Oil Drilling

George Cavros | February 14, 2018 | Energy Policy, Offshore Drilling

Oil and water just don’t mix – especially in Florida.

The Sunshine State has 1,200 miles of coastline that is home to pristine beaches, world-class fishing, and coastal communities that drive the state’s economy. Yet we are constantly reminded that our shores remain under threat, such as the recently proposed federal five year program for offshore oil drilling. While the state may have limited influence over federal policy, it can control its own destiny in state waters.

It would make sense for the state to forever protect its shores from the threat of nearshore oil drilling, right? Fortunately, there’s an opportunity to do just that.

Proposal 91, being considered by the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC), would ban oil drilling in state waters – forever. The CRC meets just once every 20 years to revise Florida’s constitution. It will place measures on the November 2018 ballot that, if approved by voters, will amend the Florida constitution. As an amendment to the state constitution – Proposal 91 would prohibit offshore drilling in state waters (3 miles on the east coast, 9 miles on the west coast) – effectively forever.

The language is straight-forward:

To protect the people of Florida and their environment, drilling for exploration or extraction of oil or natural gas is prohibited on lands beneath all state waters which have not been alienated and that lie between the mean high water line and the outermost boundaries of the state’s territorial seas. This prohibition does not apply to the transportation of oil and gas products produced outside of such waters. This subsection is self-executing.

But, in order to make it on to the ballot, it has to be approved by a vote of the full Commission. That’s where you come in. The Commission needs to hear from you. The CRC commissioners are touring the state taking comments from Florida residents. The Fort Lauderdale public hearing, which I attended, has already taken place, but there are four more. All public hearings are from 1:00 PM to 7:00 PM. Please save the dates below and attend a hearing to speak in support of Proposal 91!

Oil spills devastate coastal communities and ocean ecosystems. Make sure the CRC  knows that:

– Florida welcomed 112.8 million visitors in 2016 – the highest number of tourists in the state’s history and its sixth consecutive record-year for visitation.

– Visitors spent $109 billion and supported a record 1.4 million Florida jobs in 2016 – a testament to the vital importance of tourism to our growing economy, which relies on a clean environment.

– Tourism jobs also hit a record high in 2016 of 1.4 million jobs, exceeding the previous record in 2015.

– Tourists are drawn to Florida by our beautiful beaches, offshore reefs and fishing. For instance, reef-related expenditures generate $1 billion in income to Broward County and sustain 36,000 jobs annually. Likewise, recreational boating employs 110,000 people in Broward County and nearly 7,000 people in Palm Beach County.

– Seismic testing is brutal for wildlife. The oil industry wants to explore for oil and gas in the Atlantic with seismic air gun technology, which blasts loud shots of compressed air down through the water column and through the sea floor, where it bounces off of subsurface geologic formations and back up to receivers to help map undersea formations. These blasts, which are repeated every 10-12 seconds for days, weeks, or months at a time, are the second loudest manmade sound in the ocean, can be heard up to 2,500 miles away, and can harm wildlife. Seismic exploration has been attributed to 40%-80% declines in local fish catches and can severely impact marine mammals, like whales, that rely heavily on their sense of sound to navigate, feed, and communicate.

Proposal 91 has already passed out of two CRC committees and will voted upon by the full CRC after this round public hearings. Thanks in advance for making your voice heard. After all, our coastlines and a bright Florida future depend on it!


George Cavros
This blog was written by a former staff member of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.
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