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The Big Beach Grab?

By Staff | Jan 20, 2010

To the editor,

The Florida League of Women Voters believes that Floridians must take note of the environmental risks versus the potential monetary gain when considering offshore drilling. Florida’s greatest assets are its emerald waters, its sugar-white sand, its gorgeous beaches.

Oil spills do occur, such as the huge one now in the Timor Sea off Australia. Hurricanes mean our state is particularly vulnerable to this kind of catastrophe. Couple those risks with the fact that past drilling efforts have yielded no results, we believe Florida citizens need to really question the legislature’s sudden interest in selling the rights to drill for oil off our beautiful shores.

Florida’s tourism industry is responsible for 20 percent of the state’s economy, with its tourists spending nearly $65 billion dollars, and creating 964,000 jobs. In addition, more that $800 million worth of commercial fish are caught annually and more than $5.6 billion is spent in annual recreational fishing expenditures. Why put the tourism industry in jeopardy, especially given the precarious economy, for dubious profits? Not to mention our west coast citizens’ quality of life?

Right now here in America, during 2008, the Coast Guard National Response Center logged more than 33,000 spills. Pipelines and platforms each accounted for more than 1,300 and storage tanks more than 2,400. In 2005, Hurricanes Rita and Katrina caused 124 oil spills, destroyed 115 drilling rigs and petroleum production platforms and over 457 pipelines in the waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Remember: Florida is ranked #1 in the nation for hurricanes!

Another relight is endangering the Federal regulations protecting our coasts. If the Legislature were to vote to open up drilling in state waters 10 miles from the shore, it will likely crumble the Federal protections that both Republican and Democratic members of Congress have fought for during the past decades.

Conclusion: Florida is strapped for taxes. But opening up our coasts for doubtful dollars, and creating a risk to our tourism economy, should make citizens ask: Why would we risk this? And would those funds relieve hard-pressed Florida taxpayers, or would the real money merely fill the campaign chest of elected officials who are cheerleaders for the oil industry? The lobbyists are arriving – 29 already – and the campaign cash is flowing.

The State of Florida does not have an income tax because of our tourism industry. Damage those pristine, white-sand beaches and beautiful fishing waters, and we’ll need to replace the lost revenue with more taxes.

Carla Benninga

President, Sanibel League of Women Voters MAL Unit