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City ponders position on off-shore drilling

By Staff | Oct 21, 2009

During Tuesday’s City Council session, Mayor Mick Denham brought up the issue of off-shore drilling, and whether Sanibel’s leadership should take an official position on the subject.

With State Representative Gary Aubuchon scheduled to attend the Nov. 17 council meeting, and Senator Garrett Richter confirmed for the Dec. 1 session, Denham suggested to his fellow councilmen that they begin discussions on taking a stance on the matter in the coming weeks.

“I do not wish to see oil rigs off the shore of Sanibel, and I am also concerned about safety and the environment,” said Denham. “But I am also concerned about our dependence on foreign oil.”

Earlier this month, Lee County Commissioners unanimously voted to oppose any effort to allow exploratory drilling, specifically opposing a bill in the Florida Legislature that would allow it. That bill would allow drilling offshore within 25 miles of the county’s beaches.

“This is a no-brainer for us,” Commission chairman Ray Judah said following the vote.

Lobbyists in favor of allowing off-shore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico claim that Florida will reap many benefits associated with the move, including 40,000 jobs they say will be brought to the Sunshine State.

“What I’m hearing about this is that money is coming to Florida,” said councilman Jim Jennings. “But what I’m concerned about is the money is going to Tallahassee and the problems coming to us.”

Opponents of the bill, including SCCF, PURRE, NOAA and the Florida Audubon Society, have said that they are most concerned about the economic impact of exploratory drilling.

“PURRE thinks it would be a good idea to let the folks in Tallahassee know how its members feel about this proposal,” said Dan Wexler, Public Policy Director for PURRE. “Many voices opposing close-in oil exploration will have an impact. We’ve asked our members to contact the governor, lieutenant governor and select members of the House and Senate. We’ve asked for our representatives’ and senators’ commitment to oppose any efforts to allow this to happen.”

“The city, and our residents, do not want to see oil rigs in the Gulf,” Jennings added. “We need to really go and not support off-shore drilling.”

Marty Harrity weighed in on the topic, offering, “I just think right now we fall under the umbrella of Lee County, and just sit back and listen to what goes on.”

In an effort to collect as many opinions as possible on the subject, Denham encouraged the citizens of Sanibel to write letters – to members of the council as well as to local newspapers – expressing whether people residing on the island are in favor of or opposed to off-shore drilling.

To reach members of the City Council, send an e-mail to sancouncil@mysanibel.com. To send an e-mail to the Island Reporter (for publication in our Letters To The Editor section), send an e-mail to sancapnews@breezenewspapers.com. Letters for publication must include your name, address and phone number (for confirmation purposes only).