Offshore Oil Drilling Debate Begins Again
Officials from the federal Interior Department, Shell Oil Co., and an industry association touted the technology and safety history of offshore oil-drilling Thursday before a panel in the drill-friendly House.
A new wrinkle also was added to Florida’s oil debate, when an industry spokesman acknowledged pipeline capability could allow rigs to be positioned many miles from the gulf coastline but still extend far enough to tap state waters.
A proposal that swept through the House last spring would have allowed drilling as close as three miles offshore.
“I would think it’s possible,” Tom Fry, of the National Ocean Industries Association, told the House Select Policy Council on Strategic and Economic Planning.
The Minerals Management Service, which regulates offshore drilling under the Interior Department, also praised the industry’s track record on safety and oil spills, while pointing out that rig pipelines can now extend more than five miles along the gulf floor.
“You don’t want to see any kind of pollution, but you have to be prepared if it happens,” said Michael Saucier, a MMS regional supervisor.
The House has been struggling to maintain the oil-drilling push in the face of recurring resistance in the Senate, where President Jeff Atwater has ordered a committee to conduct a wide-ranging environmental review of the issue that could blunt prospects of the measure emerging during the spring session.
Florida Energy Associates, the organization spearheading the effort to lift Florida’s 20-year ban on offshore drilling in the gulf, last week also told the News Service of Florida it planned to shed two-thirds of the 30 lobbyists it has enlisted to work the issue. The firm’s lead lobbyist, David Rancourt, said the move was a cost-saver that could be reversed when there are signs within the Senate of the issue gaining strength.