Crist declines to say how close is too close for oil drilling

Gov. Charlie Crist this morning declined to say how close is too close for oil drilling off the Florida coastline.

A bill introduced in Congress would allow drilling within 45 miles of the coastline, effectively eliminating a ban on drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico that was crafted by Florida’s congressional delegation.

Crist, who reversed himself last year when he said he was willing to allow drilling off Florida’s coast, today reiterated his position that drilling should only be allowed if it was safe enough and far enough away to protect Florida’s beaches and tourism industry.

Asked by a reporter if he could provide a specific number of miles that is too close, he declined. Asked if 45 miles is too close, Crist responded, “It might be.”

“I think it’s important to review what technology and safety standards might continue to come forward before we pass judgment on what a certain mileage may or may not be,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., on Monday said senators from Louisiana and Alaska who introduced the bill were trying to help their states’ economies. He again said drilling would harm military training operations off Florida’s Gulf coast.

“Even in the toughest of times there are some things states shouldn’t sell out, like Florida’s economy and environment,” Nelson said. “And our nation should not sell out our national security through military preparedness.”