In a 2010 news conference following the Deepwater Horizon disaster and oil spill, Rep. Kathy Castor calls for holding oil companies responsible for environmental damage. (Photo: Office of Rep. Castor)
Jan. 8, 2019 by David Silverberg
Rep. Kathy Castor (D-14-Fla.) has reintroduced the Florida Coastal Protection Act to make permanent the moratorium on offshore oil drilling that is set to expire in 2022. As of this writing, the bill has yet to receive a number or be referred to a committee.
“Here in Florida, we’re keenly aware of the devastating impacts of oil and gas drilling off our shores,” Castor said according to a statement issued by her office. “Our state’s vital natural resources – and our state’s economy – cannot risk the devastation brought by blowouts, nor can it afford the high costs of carbon pollution. We have an obligation to act now to protect our beautiful Florida coastline, our economy and our future.”
State waters begin at the state’s shores and extend to three miles into the Atlantic Ocean and nine miles into the Gulf. The Florida Coastal Protection Act extends the recently approved state moratorium to federal waters.
Castor was joined by Reps. Charlie Crist (D-13-Fla.), Vern Buchanan (R-16-Fla.) and Francis Rooney (R-19-Fla.).
According to Castor’s statement, the moratorium currently in place protects waters up to 235 miles off the west coast of Florida from oil drilling and will expire in June 2022 unless made permanent.
Rooney, who joined Castor in her 2017 effort to pass the same legislation is supporting her again. “The people of Florida are clearly opposed to offshore drilling,” Castor’s statement quoted him saying. “The November 2018 ballot contained a ban on offshore drilling, Amendment 9, which won with over 68 percent in favor. This widespread support is a clear indication that voters are overwhelmingly in support of Florida coastal protection. As Floridians, we are well aware that our livelihood depends on a pristine environment.”
Rooney’s efforts to stop offshore oil exploration and drilling were thwarted in the 115th Congress by Rep. Steve Scalise (R-1-La.), the House Majority Whip and a leading proponent of oil and gas interests.
In addition to Rooney, Rep. Crist stated: “Florida voters spoke clearly in November: no drilling off our coasts. Our job is to be their voice in Washington, sending that same message loud and clear with this bill to block harmful drilling and exploration off of Florida. We cannot afford another disaster devastating our waters, health, and economy.”
Rep. Buchanan stated: “Allowing drilling off of Florida’s pristine coasts would be a colossal mistake. Red tide has already plagued the Sunshine State – it would be imprudent to invite the potential for another catastrophic oil spill that would devastate Florida’s economy and environment. As co-chair of the Florida congressional delegation, I will continue working with colleagues in both parties to protect the state’s beautiful coasts and waters.”
Castor introduced the same bill in April 2017, a companion to a measure introduced by Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) in the Senate. In the House, the standalone measure remained in committee but became a proposed amendment to the Defense Authorization bill. However, House Republicans would not allow it to come to a vote.
This year Castor is introducing it in a Democratic House and she chairs the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, so it has a much better chance of advancing in the chamber.
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