Special session looms as nation awaits BP’s actions to cap gushing well

With a special legislative session scheduled to begin next week to consider a ban on oil drilling, Florida officials watched and waited again Wednesday to learn whether a gushing oil well in the Gulf of Mexico can be capped. BP delayed launching tests on Tuesday to determine whether the new containment system might work and said those tests could begin late Wednesday.

“Clearly when I heard there was going to be a 24-hour delay in their decision [Tuesday] it was a little disappointing,” Florida Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole on Wednesday told the Florida Tribune. “I also understand their need to be cautious in whatever action they take.”

Gov. Charlie Crist has used the Gulf oil spill to push the Legislature to place a constitutional ban on drilling in state waters on the November ballot. There was no further word Wednesday from House and Senate Republican leaders on how the special session from July 20-23 will proceed or whether the scope of the session could be expanded.

House Democratic Leader Franklin Sands of Weston accused Republican leaders of “stonewalling” and called on them to support the drilling ban. There was no immediate response from Republican leaders. House Speaker Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, has objected to a special session as unnecessary because drilling already is banned in state law.

Also Wednesday, the nonprofit environmental law firm Earthjustice filed a lawsuit on behalf of environmental groups against the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency seeking public disclosure of secret ingredients used in chemical dispersants used against the oil spill. “The public has a right to know what the dispersants being used in the Gulf will do the Gulf — and to its wildlife,” Manley Fuller, executive director of the Florida Wildlife Federation, said in a statement. The dispersants have not been used in Florida waters, according to DEP.

(Photo by BP PLC. Story provided by The Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission, which can be obtained by contacting brucebritchie@gmail.com.)