Senate President doubts special session for oil drilling

Senate President Jeff Atwater today said a special session of the Legislature in October is highly unlikely and he raised doubts about whether it should include consideration of lifting Florida’s ban on offshore oil drilling.

Gov. Charlie Crist last week said drilling should be included in a special session in October to take up an agreement on gambling revenues with the Seminole Tribe. But environmentalists and some newspapers are urging the Legislature not to take up lifting the drilling ban.

In a letter to senators today, Atwater said an initial review of the gaming compact has raised questions about some of its terms. He also said the issue of offshore drilling “involves a series of complex conversations with a variety of interests and impacts throughout our state.”

“These are policy decisions to be considered that are not well served by undue haste,” he said. “If, or when, the Senate takes up this issue it will be in a manner that allows for sufficient time to debate the facts and the merits of such policy.”

Atwater raised concerns about the compact in a letter to Crist but did not mention the drilling issue.

Drilling supporters said they support the Legislature taking up the issue whenever they are ready to do so.

Jose Gonzalez, vice president of government affairs at Associated Industries of Florida, said the Senate’s concerns seemed to be more about the Seminole compact than drilling.

“We don’t see this as a drawback,” he said. “We see it as the Senate wanting to take their time on the issue.”

Associated Industries of Florida released poll results on Wednesday showing that a majority of Florida residents support drilling. Drilling opponents have said such polls are based on the assumption that drilling won’t cause environmental harm that opponents say will occur.