Senate committee advances moratorium on oil drilling in part of eastern Gulf


A Senate committee approved a resolution calling Congress to keep in place a moratorium against oil drilling in the eastern part of the Gulf of Mexico.

The military uses the area in question for air and sea training.

Tuesday’s vote by the Committee on Environmental Preservation and Conservation comes a week after the Donald Trump administration announced that they would exclude Florida from an earlier proposed expansion of offshore oil and gas drilling in the eastern Gulf and the state’s Atlantic coast.

Sponsored by Gulf Breeze Republican Doug Broxson, the resolution asks Congress to maintain the moratorium, which is in place from east of the Military Mission Line, which runs south of Hurlburt Field in Okaloosa County to Key West. The moratorium is set to expire in 2022.

In 2006, current Florida Sen. Bill Nelson and former Sen. Mel Martinez successfully brokered a deal to ban drilling off Florida’s Gulf Coast through the year 2022. Last year, Nelson filed legislation to extend the ban an additional five years, to 2027.

Noticing several members from environmental groups were supporting the bill, Palm Coast Republican Travis Hutson questioned whether the legislation intended to protect the country, and not against oil and gas industries.

Adamant his legislation was not aimed at hurting those industries, Broxson said one of the counties in his district, Santa Rosa, produced 90 percent of all energy that’s “ever been produced in the state of Florida.”

“If you look at my record, I am very conscious of our debate that we have and how we keep this country strong, and we have to have energy. I am a very pro-energy purpose,” Broxson said, adding that he’s also pro-jobs and pro-military.

“Protecting and enhancements of our military efforts is paramount,” said Fort Lauderdale Democrat Gary Farmer. “If it has the added effect of doing some environmental protection, so be it.”

Destin Republican Mel Ponder filed a companion resolution (HR 319) in the House.

Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at [email protected].


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