Offshore drilling, related activities not a fit for state of Florida
Offshore drilling and related activities, including seismic testing, have no place in the Eastern Gulf. The moratorium on exploration in the Eastern Gulf established in 2006 will expire in 2022 unless Congress acts. It is imperative for the future of Florida and our tourism-based economy that this bi-partisan effort to extend the moratorium succeed.
The Eastern Gulf is of critical importance to our national security due to the flight training and testing that takes place from our numerous bases in the panhandle and around Tampa to Naval Air Station Key West. The Eastern Gulf is the largest training ground for the United States military in the world. For this reason, the Department of Defense (DoD) fully supports extending the moratorium on offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf. In response to a letter to the Department of Defense, which 14 of my Florida colleagues and I sent in March, A.M. Kurta, the acting Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, responded that it is of “vital importance” to maintain the moratorium.
Aside from security concerns, offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf will adversely impact our environment. Seismic testing to evaluate conditions for oil exploration may harm fish and marine mammal populations. The industrial infrastructure needed to support offshore drilling, and ultimately offshore production of oil and gas, is wholly incompatible with existing tourist-centric development. Homes, condominiums and apartments line our coasts and bays. There is no place in our shallow bays, full of recreational vessels, to locate the tank farms, docks, steel mooring balls, and other equipment which are necessary to support the numerous offshore supply vessels (OSVs) and barges supplying the rigs and platforms. All of this would radically undermine Florida’s coastal ecosystems.
These environmental concerns directly impact Florida’s economy and residents. Our economies depend on tourism, which requires clean beaches and healthy ecosystems. Florida is known worldwide for its pristine beaches and a pleasant, non-commercial environment. We have deliberately strong zoning laws for parking, green spaces, trees and shrubs, and commercial structures, and have made significant investments in conservation lands. Lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling would destroy our status as a premier tourist destination and undermine these investments.
Lifting the moratorium on offshore drilling in the Eastern Gulf would be a bad deal for the people and ecosystems of Florida, and a bad deal for the United States military. I will continue to fight on behalf of my constituents to keep the moratorium.
Francis Rooney is the U.S. Representative for Florida’s 19th congressional district. He is the Vice-Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and serves on the Committee on Education and the Workforce. He previously served as U.S. Ambassador to the Holy See under President George W. Bush from 2005 to 2008.