Buchanan Introduces Offshore Drilling Ban



While a new administration considers allowing offshore oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, U.S. Reps. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, and Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Sunrise, on Monday introduced legislation that would ban drilling off Florida’s coast until at least 2027. “Florida’s beaches are vital to our economy and way of life,” says Buchanan. “Our coastal communities depend on a clean and healthy ocean.”

The move could put Buchanan, co-chairman of Florida’s Congressional delegation, at odds with President Donald Trump and his administration. A recent proposal from the administration could open up more than 70 million acres off Florida’s coast to oil and gas drilling as soon as this August. The president on Friday signed an executive order beginning a five-year development plan for drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and off the US eastern seaboard. Trump has criticized an Obama-era ban for closing off 94 percent of offshore areas to oil exploration.

Opposition to drilling off Florida’s coast has long been a bipartisan priority for Florida congressional leaders, though that seemed to wane in 2009 amid pressure at the state and federal level to allow drilling in the Gulf and even within 10 miles of land. But political winds in Florida shifted heavily against drilling after the 2010 explosion on the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, which resulted in a spill that threatened Florida’s west coast and caused a steep decline in travel to the state, particularly from international visitors. Buchanan noted he maintained opposition to drilling before and after the disaster, and says continuing to ban drilling will prevent a similar explosion to the 2010 event that killed 11 people and resulted in more than 4 million barrels of oil flowing into the Gulf. 

A spectrum of political forced in Southwest Florida applauded the introduction of a new ban. “When we look at our revenue from visitors and at the environment, drilling off our beached would not be good for our local economy and quality of life,” says Jack Brill, vice chairman of the Republican Party of Sarasota. And Glenn Compton, chairman of Manasota-88, a conservation organization based in Nokomis, says Buchanan’s move deserves praise. “This is an appropriate move on Mr. Buchanan’s part,” Compton says. “Drilling for oil off the state of Florida should never be done. There’s too much risk. And the areas that could be open for exploration are some of the most environmentally sensitive areas in the Gulf of Mexico.”

But others say the ban keeps the nation dependent on foreign oil at the expense of jobs in America. “Environmentalists use the fear factor when talking about drilling for natural gas and oil off of Florida’s shores. The same is true for some of Florida’s Congressional delegation, such as Rep. Vern Buchanan,” says Rich Swier, who runs Sarasota-based conservative blog drrichswier.com. “Fear is not good public policy. What is good public policy is insuring that Floridians have access to cheap and reliable power in the foreseeable future.”

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