The House last year passed HB 1219 to allow drilling as close as three miles to the coast but the measure wasn’t taken up by the Senate. Last fall, Senate President Jeff Atwater asked the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida to assist in studying the drilling issue.
The commission says its 40-page draft report makes no conclusions but instead highlights the risks, rewards and uncertainties of drilling.
Florida, the report said, would weaken its ability to prevent Congress from lifting a ban on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico if the ban within state waters, which extend 10.3 miles from the coast, is lifted.
There are an estimated 236 million barrels of oil and natural gas in state waters off peninsular Florida. A federal estimate of reserves in state waters off the western Panhandle is due later this year.
In federal waters, there are an estimated 7.71 billion barrels of oil and natural gas, the report said.
Drilling in federal waters could eventually generate between $20 million to $40 million annually. But the draft report says an estimate from state waters should wait until after the federal estimate of reserves is issued later this year.
Oil spills are “low-probability” events, the report said, but even small spills can harm marine life, ecosystems and coastal economies.
Oil rigs six miles from shore would be a speck on the horizon and the threat to coastal tourism is uncertain. The U. S. defense secretary, the draft report said, is the person to determine whether drilling threatens military missions in the Gulf.
The public soon will be asked to comment on the report at the Century Commission web site, www.centurycommission.org . The draft report is available now at the meetings web page, which is accessed through the meetings pull-down menu.
The House Select Policy Council on Strategic and Economic Planning meets Monday at 10 a.m. to discuss oil drilling.
(Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)