Florida Panhandle politicians who had been ardent offshore drilling advocates are changing their tune as the BP oil disaster begins harming their constituents. Wonk Room’s Brad Johnson has the story in this repost.
Florida Panhandle politicians who had been ardent offshore drilling advocates are changing their tune as the BP oil disaster begins harming their constituents. State Representative Greg Evers (R-FL-1) and State Senator Don Gaetz (R-FL-4) joined Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum (R-FL) at a press conference at the Pensacola Chamber of Commerce yesterday. Before the explosion of the Deepwater Horizon rig, both Gaetz and Evers advocated drilling near the Florida shoreline. Now that “a lot of businesses are already feeling the pinch,” however, Evers says the white beaches of Escambia County “must be protected at all costs,” and Gaetz says that the “many” economic losses coming from this oil spill mean “these are the worst of times“:
GAETZ: We are very, very fortunate that in this fight for our economic and ecological lives, the Attorney General Bill McCullom is at the front of the fight. . . . These are the worst of times. We don’t know how badly or when we’ll be hit, but we’re pretty sure we will be hit.
EVERS: You have to understand: this is our way of life. These white sands are our way of life. We must protect them at all costs. . . . At this point, no, I’m definitely not comfortable with [drilling off the Florida coast], until actual safety precautions are put in place before any drilling is done, whether it even be off the coast of Texas right now.
Watch Evers’ comments:
Before this looming catastrophe, Evers and Gaetz were enthusiastic about bringing oil rigs within sight of their beaches. Evers called for an expansion of “clean, spill-proof drilling.” After the commander of the Eglin Air Force Base said in January that “oil and gas drilling in Florida waters could pose a threat to military operations,” Gaetz told reporters those concerns “are still not enough to convince him to oppose offshore drilling.”
In contrast, it should be noted that Republican State Senator Durrell Peaden (R-FL-2), who also represents the Panhandle coast, has never liked “the idea of risking our beaches on a crap shoot.”
McCollum, a candidate for Florida governor who had previously raised objections to bringing oil rigs off the valuable coast of Florida, told the Wonk Room he is willing to consider punitive damages against BP when the time comes.
Watch the full Wonk Room interview with Rep. Greg Evers.