South Floridians ask legislators for vote on offshore drilling
Environmentalists around the state are hoping that a special session starting tomorrow, July 20, in Tallahassee will let voters in Florida decide on the offshore drilling issue. In one of many gatherings around Florida, a small group gathered Monday on the steps of Oakland Park City Hall, also home to Florida Senate President Jeff Atwater’s office.
“The people of Broward County and all of Florida should have the right to decide the future of oil in our state. In the wake of the Gulf oil spill, no immediate plans are on the table. However, we know that memories can be short—especially when large amounts of money are in play,” said Matt Schwartz, organizer and longtime activist for environmental issues, in an email inviting people to come to the rally.
Schwartz, who is the political chair for the Broward Sierra Club, organized the rally in hopes of garnering support for a constitutional amendment to ban offshore drilling in Florida. The special session, called by Gov. Charlie Crist after the BP Gulf oil spill, is to decide on adding an amendment to the Florida constitution to ban offshore drilling. If passed by the legislature, the issue would go to the voters in November.
“We [called] for local citizens to assemble at the Broward office of Florida State Senate District 25 Monday morning to send a message to Florida Senate President Jeff Atwater, and the two influential members of the Florida House Republican leadership who are now competing for the seat he is vacating—Rep. Ellyn Bogdanoff (Ft. Lauderdale) and Rep. Carl Domino (Jupiter),” said Scwartz. “We are asking these legislators to vote YES on the proposed Constitutional Amendment. While Sen. Atwater has in the past expressed opposition to opening up Florida waters to oil drilling, he has been highly critical of the
special session. Rep. Bogdanoff and Rep. Domino are currently listed as ‘on the fence’ or ‘no answer’ on the question of whether or not Florida voters will get to decide Florida’s oil future. It’s going to be close—every vote in the legislature will count.”
Many of the supporters at city hall had been against offshore drilling before the spill, but were continuing to push for a ban.
Ray Del Papa, who drove up from North Miami, said he has traveled a lot through the Gulf, and said oil rigs are only the beginning of the problem.
“It takes enormous infrastructure—it would take our area geared towards tourism and recreation and turn it into an industrial park,” said Del Papa, of letting oil companies drill offshore Florida. “Oil refineries are large, and then the chemical plants—areas that have those have some of the highest cancer rates.”
Del Papa is referring to Cancer Alley, which ranges from Mobile, Alabama to Texas, but its heart is in Baton Rouge where residents have extremely high cancer rates. One example is Mossville, LA, a town that lives in the shadow of 14 petrochemical refineries.
“In 2002 Louisiana had the second-highest death rate from cancer in the United States. Although the national average is 206 deaths per 100,000, Louisiana’s rate is 237.3 deaths per 100,000.
In 2000 Toxic Release Inventory (TRI) data showed that Louisiana ranked second throughout the nation for total onsite releases, third for total releases within the state, and fourth for total on- and offsite releases. Louisiana, which has a population of 4,469,970 people, produced 9,416,598,055 pounds of waste in 2000. Seven of the ten plants in the state with the largest combined on- and offsite releases are located in cancer alley, and four of the ten plants with the largest onsite releases in the state are located there.”
Why should Floridians care about what’s happening in Louisiana? Quite simply, if these rigs are built closer to the Florida coastline, we would see more industrial parks, more pollution and likely an increase in Florida’s cancer rates.
And while health is an issue, others have concerns about jobs, impacts on tourism. 14-year-old Andrew Wimberly stopped by the rally with his brother Alexander while on their bikes.
“It’s been 87 days and it’s still not fixed—they can’t seem to fix their own problems, plus also those people who have no jobs now,” said Wimberly.
For Edie Spitz, the only responsible choice is alternative clean energy.
“We need alternative clean energy that’s affordable for the average person—I was against offshore drilling before the leak—it’s not safe and it’s not clean and Floridians should absolutely be able to choose,” she said.
But a ban in Florida is only the beginning.
“I think if given the option, voters would ban offshore drilling, and I like the ban in Florida, but also want it across the nation until the oil companies can demonstrate they can drill for oil in a safe way,” said Pat Widener of Hollywood. “The government has also demonstrated an inability to regulate offshore drilling.
A moratorium set to expire Nov. 30 was imposed by Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar and prohibits deepwater drilling until gas/oil companies create a plan to prevent blowouts and safety regulartions.
Locally, Broward County, Fort Lauderdale, Davie and Deerfield as well as the Broward League of Cities as well as Palm Beach County, Dade County, Monroe County have all taken official stances against offshore drilling through resolutions. BrowardNETOnline.com’s green writer Valerie Amor has personally made it her mission to get every single city in Broward to adopt this resolution. Hands Across the Sands events have gathered thousands to the beaches in Florida to protest offshore drilling.
Schwartz has asked those who weren’t able to attend the rally to send an email, letter, phone call, fax to representatives urging them to support letting voters decide on offshore drilling.
Find your Florida state representative and senator here –
- Locals unite at Fort Lauderdale beach against oil drilling offshore
- Take a sustainable approach-urge elected officials to take stance against offshore drilling
- Learn how to get contracts with local Broward governments
- Pill mill bill signed; Broward looking at moratorium
- State Rep. Clarke-Reed now has office hours in Oakland Park
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