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Scott Wouldn’t Close Door on Drilling

GOP gubernatorial front runner Rick Scott left open the possibility of future oil drilling in Florida waters as he campaigned across Florida's oil-threatened Emerald Coast Monday.

“If we figure out some day it's safe, then I think we ought to look at it,” he said. “But today it's not safe.”

Scott concluded a six-day tour across the state in the Panhandle talking to area residents and business owners. Their biggest concern, not surprisingly, was the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.

“As you can see right now, all these boats, it's July 26, we should be fishing,” said Scott Robson, president of the Destin Charter Boat Association, pointing to a line up of boats that were docked instead of out in the water.

Robson chatted with Scott as he walked around a Destin pier talking to fishermen and touting his jobs plan. He didn't elaborate on his drilling views with area residents, instead asking questions about their businesses.

Robson said he did not know about Scott's views, but noted that many area people originally favored drilling. He wasn't sure how Scott's views would affect his chances with voters.

“At a time, we all did kind of support it,” he said. “I think fishermen even said, oh you know, if we put some rigs way far out that'd be cool and it makes good fishing. So we were thinking. I think everybody's a little ‘Whoops, ooo, I don't know.’”

Florida lawmakers were in Tallahassee last week to discuss a constitutional ban on oil drilling, but adjourned without taking any action. They are likely to return in late August or early September to take up a slate of economic issues related to the spill.

Scott said the state needs to hold BP accountable for the spill, but stopped short of giving lawmakers any specific tips for legislation to help deal with the state's economic woes related to it.. The U.S. Travel Association released a study this week done by Oxford Economics that said the oil spill is likely to cost the Gulf Coast in several states $23 billion over three years.

“I think the first thing is they hold anybody who caused any damage accountable, and they've got to make sure we don't put in caps on the company’s liability, things like that,” he said. “And as we find out where people are damaged, do anything we can in those areas to spur economic growth.”

Scott's primary opponent, Attorney General Bill McCollum, has also been unclear on his view on drilling. During a press conference two weeks ago, he said he didn't believe the special session was necessary, but then conceded that if he were a lawmaker he would probably vote for a constitutional ban on offshore drilling. He has voiced support for a special session to take up economic issues related to the spill.

A McCollum spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for clarification from the News Service.

Democrat Alex Sink and no party affiliation candidate Bud Chiles are both against new drilling in Florida waters, and Sink publicly scolded lawmakers for not taking a vote during their special session last week saying they showed a “stunning lack of leadership.”

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