Oil drilling lobbyists are working hard to put our waters at risk again by drilling off Florida’s shores. The BP oil spill is responsible for the death of thousands of animals living in the Gulf, yet the oil lobbyists are lying without shame trying to drill again (see “We’ve Had Enough Of Jeff Kottkamp’s Falsehoods And Exaggerations.”)
Thanks to people like Gary Appelson who reminds us of the truth when those around us say the opposite.
Off-shore drilling in Florida waters will be on the ballot in Nov. That is why the money-hungry lobbyists are starting their campaign based on lies. VOTE YES ON AMENDMENT 9 TO BAN OFF-SHORE DRILLING. HAVE WE NOT SEEN THE DESTRUCTION AND DEATH THIS BRINGS TO FLORIDA? Safer drilling techniques will not guarantee no accidents, and any risk is too great.
Go to this link in the Gainesville Sun to see the original article.
Comments by OSFR historian Jim Tatum.
-A river is like a life: once taken, it cannot be brought back-
Gary Appelson: Gulf oil drilling is not good for Florida
By Gary Appelson / Special to The Sun
The push to open up the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling is again in full swing. It’s being led by the American Petroleum Institute and the Florida Petroleum Council. They enlisted former Florida Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp to help spread the word that drilling closer to Florida’s beaches is safe (column, Sept. 2).
Kottkamp raised eyebrows recently when he downplayed the impacts of the BP Deepwater Horizon disaster by inaccurately claiming oil never reached Florida’s shores and blaming the media for exaggerating the impacts. In a follow-up statement, the director of the Florida Petroleum Council said that “Florida was largely unaffected” by the disaster.
This is an old and tired story. In 2009 oil interests lobbied the Florida Legislature to open Florida’s nearshore waters to oil drilling and overturn Florida’s 20-year prohibition on oil exploration in state waters. This time around, however, the drilling advocates are pushing to open federal waters in the eastern Gulf, buoyed by the Trump administration’s support for exploration and drilling.
In response to the 2009 lobbying effort, the Florida Legislature convened hearings on the issue from November 2009 through March 2010, leaving open the possibility of extending them further into 2010. I attended the hearings and testified in opposition to drilling on behalf of the Gainesville-based Sea Turtle Conservancy.
During the hearings we heard testimony on how prepared the Coast Guard was in containing spills. Oil industry spokespeople explained how oil and gas drilling in the Gulf was safe and extolled their redundant safeguards. Economists explained the economic benefits to Floridians. Much time was spent on intra-agency preparedness and how quickly oil-skimming vessels and containment booms could be deployed to Florida.
Then on April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon well exploded, killing 11 people and spewing hundreds of millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf. Plans for additional legislative hearings were cancelled and the effort to overturn the Florida ban on drilling was abandoned.
As oil spread northeast toward the Panhandle, the industry and the Coast Guard rushed to find skimmers to remove floating oil and containment booms to prevent oil from reaching Florida’s beaches. In contrast to the assurances during the hearings, there were extensive delays in finding and delivering the limited containment equipment. The weeks of hearings praising industry safety and preparedness rang hollow.
Five years after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, BP agreed in court to award Florida $3.2 billion for economic losses to coastal communities and the Florida seafood industry. Impacts to wildlife were catastrophic.
As oil approached Florida’s Panhandle beaches wildlife agencies made the difficult decision to dig up hundreds of sea turtle nests before they hatched and move the eggs to oil-free beaches on the Atlantic side. The effort was to ensure the survival of as many hatchlings as possible that may have otherwise been oiled on the beach or in the surf.
Our organization spent days building nest boxes to hold the eggs for transport. Volunteers and agency staff worked tirelessly locating nests, removing eggs and carefully placing them in the nest boxes.
Biologists and veterinarians with sea turtle expertise worked grueling hours at sea, locating and picking up oiled sea turtles. They were also searching for floating mats of Sargassum seaweed. Juvenile sea turtles seek out the Sargassum for refuge and foraging. Wind-driven oil also collected in these mats. The sea turtle biologists were trying to stay ahead of the oil clean-up crews that were setting fire to the oily mats in an effort to burn off the oil, killing any wildlife that were present.
The official government tally of sea turtle mortality was reported in the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Final Programmatic Damage Assessment and Restoration Plan. That report estimated that between 4,900 and 7,600 large juvenile and adult sea turtles and between 55,000 and as many as 160,000 small juvenile sea turtles were killed by exposure to Deepwater Horizon oil. Further, “Approximately 4,000 to 7,000 square kilometers of Sargassum were oiled and determined to have been lost to the northern Gulf of Mexico ecosystem.”
The report concluded, “Miring in oil and exposure to oiled surface habitat caused significant harm to sea turtles, including decreased mobility, exhaustion, dehydration, overheating, likely decreased ability to feed and evade predators, and death.” The reported impacts to dolphins, shorebirds and other wildlife were just as dire.
In his recent column, Kottkamp stated “opponents to offshore energy exploration don’t like to take into account the full story.” I suggest the opposite is true.
Gary Appelson is policy coordinator for the Sea Turtle Conservancy.