House drilling legislation to be heard on Friday

A House panel is expected Thursday to receive a draft committee bill that would lift the ban on drilling for oil and gas in state waters.

The House Select Policy Council on Strategic & Economic Planning has been holding hearings on whether to allow drilling in state waters within 10.4 miles of the coast. Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park and committee chairman, said Wednesday he expects the proposed bill to be discussed Friday and that a committee vote could occur then. The bill would not authorize drilling but would establish parameters for where the governor and Cabinet could permit drilling, Cannon said.

His council heard a presentation from Willis Structured Risk Solutions on a 177-page report that examined the risk of oil spills. The House paid $200,000 for the study. Willis representatives described the potential reserves as uncertain and the risks as minimal compared to the 275 million barrels of petroleum products shipped each year into Florida ports. “I was reassured by the fact that they assessed the risk of energy exploration as much less — a fraction of a percentage less — than the oil shipping we do every day in and out of Florida’s ports and the other risks we live with and manage successfully every day,” Cannon said.

Environmental groups emphasized the report’s recommendations for environmental studies and maritime planning. “Before they consider any additional authorization by the governor and Cabinet, I think we have to get into the details of how we make it safe,” said Eric Draper, executive director of Audubon of Florida.

To download a copy of the report, as part of the House Select Policy Council’s meeting packet, click here.

(Story content provided by the Current, produced by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)