Discussion on offshore drilling
Tuesday, February 9th at 5:30pm Jeff Lytle ...
TALLAHASSEE — A proposal to allow companies to explore for oil off Florida’s Gulf Coast will come before lawmakers, but maybe not this year, a leading House member and drilling advocate said Friday.
On Friday, the House Select Policy Council on Strategic and Economic Planning concluded public testimony as it crafts a bill to open up oil and gas exploration within 10.3 miles of Florida’s gulf coast.
Committee chairman Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, who is expected to become House Speaker next year, told reporters he’s in no hurry to address the issue during the 2010 Legislative session.
“We’re going to produce a great bill,” Cannon told reporters following the meeting. “Whether or not it passes at the end of the day, I’m less concerned about. I’m more concerned about getting it right. If it happens this year, fine. If it happens next year, that’s fine too.”
Cannon said panelists will likely not begin working on it until week six of the session. A bill may not be ready for a vote until the seventh or eighth week, likely too close to the end of session for it to be vetted by the chamber.
Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, said earlier this week that the Senate may likely not take up the issue at all this session, which is scheduled to end April 30.
But whenever the bill comes up for a vote, Rep. Matt Hudson, R-Naples said critics will not be able to credibly contend that the issue was rushed. Over the past several weeks, the panel has heard hours of testimony from industry representatives, federal officials and companies involved in clean up.
“The chairman has been deliberate and methodical,” said Hudson, a committee member. “He’s conducted a thoughtful and thorough review.”
Drilling advocates say that whenever the issue is addressed, a wealth of information is available for anybody to use in making up their minds.
“The data is all there, it’s all public. It’s all transparent, ” said David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council. “From our view, when you look at all that, it lends itself to going forward.”
Janet Bowman, director of legislative policy for the Nature Conservancy, said the testimony taken on the factors surrounding oil and gas exploration was extensive. Largely absent from the discussion, however, was the broader issues of how oil and gas fits Florida’s desired energy policy taken as a whole.
“The hearings were helpful,” Bowman said. “I would have liked to have heard more about where oil fits in to the bigger picture in Florida.”
Cannon’s comments come as both chambers delve into the issue to justify whatever legislation emerges.
A Senate report completed by the Collins Center for Public Policy released earlier in March found the state’s estimated oil reserves — less than 100 million barrels — would satisfy the U.S. demand for oil for less than a week.
However, the report, which studied the potential impact of drilling in state waters within 10.3 miles of the Florida Gulf coast, did agree with another argument sometimes made by proponents of drilling: that it would help the state’ cash-strapped wallet.
The report did not give tax revenue estimates for oil and gas produced in Florida waters, but said other Gulf states have seen annual revenues from $52 million to $200 million over the past several years.
Cannon said Friday that potential revenue is only part of the equation. He also remained skeptical that the figures underlying the Collins Center report were accurate, citing the unpredictability of determining oil and gas reserves in advance.
“You really don’t know what you have until you drill,” Cannon said.