City commissioners Thursday night discussed for the second time their position on offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico, a proposal opposed last year by nearly every coastal city across Tampa Bay.
Yet Dunedin City Hall still has adopted no official stance on drilling, partly due to a draft resolution written by City Attorney John Hubbard that commissioners saw as weak, vague and outdated by months.
Commissioners agreed with the draft’s main premises: that the city’s economy relies heavily on tourism revenues tied to the beaches, especially the centerpieces of Honeymoon and Caladesi islands, and that oil wells within 3 miles of the coastline could risk Dunedin’s “largest industry and quality of life.”
Yet problems arose in the resolution’s calls to action. In the first, Hubbard wrote that the city wanted to ask Gov. Charlie Crist to not call a special legislative session to “rush through” a drilling proposal.
Yet the session in question already happened last year. Drilling was not part of the agenda.
The second section said only “that before additional expansion of drilling areas in the Gulf of Mexico be considered, that the significant expansion recently allowed be explored.”
That call wasn’t strong enough for commissioners.
“When it comes to the title, ‘opposing the expansion of offshore drilling,’ it’s curious to read that nowhere in the resolution does the word ‘oppose’ ever occur,” said Commissioner Ron Barnette.
“Why isn’t there a stronger language akin to some of the other (cities)?” he said. “Quite frankly, Section 2 is the only thing that comes close to saying we oppose it, and that could be supported by one who supports it.”
St. Petersburg, Tampa, Clearwater, Largo, Safety Harbor and a council of 11 Pinellas coastal cities (the “BIG-C”) opposed offshore drilling late last year, many of them decrying strongly the potentially “catastrophic damage” of an oil spill or the more passive obtrusions into beach life.
“Drilling rigs of any size would be seen on the horizon in the daytime, during the sunset and especially at night,” said Dunedin Chamber of Commerce Chairman Jack Norton, quoting the BIG-C’s September resolution, “and pose threats to our way of life here that we are unwilling to accept.”
Commissioners, who postponed the discussion in December for more information, asked that Hubbard resubmit a stronger draft using the BIG-C’s longer resolution as a base by February’s meeting.
One visitor to City Hall, however, expressed support for more domestic oil drilling and questioned the value of the city’s decision.
“I want you guys to take care of my garbage, to take care of my water,” said resident John Espey. “But a resolution about drilling in the gulf — I don’t see that as what we ought to be doing.”