Supporters of placing a ban on oil drilling in the state Constitution say you don’t have to go far back in history — only to 2009 — to show why one is needed.
In 2009, HB 1219 by Rep. Charles Van Zant, R-Keystone Heights, had simply directed the Florida Department of Environmental Protection to study and make recommendations on how drilling could occur if the state’s nearly 20-year-old ban on drilling in Florida waters were ever lifted. A Sierra Club representative spoke against the bill at one committee meeting, but it didn’t rate the attention of other environmental groups.
On April 21, the bill was amended in committee to lift the state’s ban. Six days later the bill passed the Florida House.
Although the Senate never took up the bill, some environmentalists say those events — along with the recent BP oil spill — show why the issue can’t be left up to the Legislature. The drilling ban is the subject of a special session this week called by Gov. Charlie Crist.
“It showed the power of special interests that want to start drilling in this state,” said Preston Robertson, vice president and general counsel for the Florida Wildlife Federation. “It certainly showed us that.”