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House Proposal Seeks To Extend Federal Offshore Drilling Moratorium Indefinitely

MGN Online

Florida’s offshore drilling concerns have made headlines recently. And now, nearly 80 years into the industry’s existence in Florida, state government officials are searching for some permanency on the issue. 

Periodically updating rules and regulations for offshore drilling is standard for The Federal Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. But, with recent pushback from elected officials on the Trump administration’s decision to expand oil and gas drilling across Florida and U.S. waters, lawmakers have been looking for ways to stave off. Constitution Revisions Commission member Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch attempted this in December with Proposition 91.

“A lot of this stuff ends up in how it’s interpreted in the courts, and how you duke it out. And so what you’re hoping for, I believe, is to give yourself the best options possible,” Thurlow-Lippisch says. 

Proposition 91 would explicitly ban oil and gas drilling in Florida-owned waters on both the Gulf and Atlantic sides of the state. Not leaving a lot of room for interpretation. On the heels of this comes the House’s latest resolution, which focuses mainly on the Gulf of Mexico, using a previous federal law as foundation.  

The Gulf of Mexico Security Act of 2006 put a federal moratorium on oil exploration east of the Military Mission Line. The moratorium expires in 2022, but House Resolution 319 would ask the federal government for an indefinite extension.

The Military Mission line is part of the Gulf of Mexico Range Complex, which stretches from the Florida panhandle to Key West. It’s home to the largest military testing and training range in the U.S. Drilling east of the Military Mission Line, the resolution argues, would result in a loss of range areas and the possible relocation of aircrafts and bases to other unrestricted range areas. One of the Resolution’s sponsors, Rep. Mel Ponder (R-Destin), also fears encroaching on the Military Line would have a negative impact on Florida’s economy.

“The Military, as many of you all know in this committee, is extremely vital to Florida. It’s arguably the third or fourth largest contributor to our economy, has over 775,000 jobs, over $80 billion dollars economic impact. It’s vitally important. To us in northwest Florida, it’s actually 65% of our economy. It’s a big deal,” Ponder says.

Ponder says the resolution isn’t meant to dishonor the petroleum industry. He says Florida is the third largest consumer of petroleum, while the military is the largest consumer in the world. Instead, he says, the resolution is meant to honor the military’s impact on the state. But, the Executive Director of the Florida Petroleum counsel, David Mica, doesn’t see it that way.

“I’m saying that this resolution, that goes up there, asking for an indefinite moratorium, on a potentially new area, can have an effect on our American energy security. We believe that as an industry,” Mica says.

Mica says the Petroleum industry already works hand in hand with the Military when it comes to drilling permits. Creating an indefinite moratorium just gives the industry another hoop to jump through.

Nevertheless, Ponder remains firm on the moratorium, calling the Range Complex irreplaceable.

“It’s an asset to Florida. Bigger than that, it’s an asset to the nation. It’s irreplaceable. Irreplaceable! It’s generational. It’s a generational blessing, it’s irreplaceable that we have the gift and honor of having it off our coast, and it’s in the line of national defense,” Ponder says.

The Resolution passed its final committee on Wednesday, and will be heard on the floor.