The Florida Gulf Coast Business Coalition is officially launching an alliance of coastal business owners and leaders opposed to offshore drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast. The group of businesses is formally announcing its partnership on October 16 at 10:30 a.m. at the Tradewinds Island Grand Resort on St. Pete Beach.
The Coalition represents more than 2,000 businesses, chambers of commerce and other associations. The group hopes to create a unified voice against any new drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico and works to ensure no existing drilling moves any further inland.
U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist is expected to speak at the group’s announcement. Robin Miller, president and CEO of the Tampa Bay Beaches Chamber of Commerce, and Clearwater Marine Aquarium CEO David Yates will also speak.
Efforts under the Trump administration to expand offshore drilling threaten more than 300,000 jobs and $17.5 billion in gross domestic product associated with Florida’s Gulf Coast Fishing, tourism and recreation, according to the Coalition.
The Trump administration announced earlier this year its plans to open almost all U.S. waters to offshore drilling. The Department of the Interior’s a draft five-year program for oil and gas development on the Outer Continental Shelf, the agency proposed the largest number of potential offshore lease sales ever, the Coalition said.
The group’s members include businesses and advocacy groups from the entire Gulf Coast.
The announcement comes as Gulf Coast businesses battle a different problem — red tide. Statewide efforts are ongoing to mitigate the effects of this year’s algae bloom, which has been one of the worst in recent history. Fish kills and toxins in the air are keeping visitors away from beaches and nearby businesses.
The state of Florida allocated $3 million for businesses affected by red tide and the federal government made small business loans available to help them recover. Researchers are also continuing work trying to understand why red tide occurs and how to prevent or mitigate it.