VENICE, FL — State lawmakers are considering a bill that would lift the ban on drilling off the Florida coast. The House has already passed the bill, but the Senate has yet to vote. It could allow drilling as close as three miles from Florida’s beaches.
There is no shortage of opinions. “I think it’s time we start drilling,” says Venice resident John Degon. Fellow Venetian Alexandra Merton doesn’t agree. “My first thought is I can’t believe they are actually going to do this.”
There is plenty of debate regarding the possible environmental impacts, the amount of jobs it could create, the money it would raise, or it’s impact on tourism. We’ll get to those this week. Today we’re focusing on simply the view.
“This is the worst legislation we’ve seen as far as oil drilling in concerned.” Glenn Compton with the environmental watchdog group Manasota-88 says it’s hard to imagine oil rigs up and down the coast close to shore. “Nobody has ever proposed it this close before. It’s always been talked about as 125 miles or 150 miles off shore.”
“It will be a spot on the horizon you wont even notice it.” Rich Swier is the publisher with www.redcounty.com. He believes the state needs to become energy independent and it’s time to drill, no matter how close to shore. “Give me a break, it’s bunk. You being able to look out there and see an oil rig. You know what, if you don’t like that then move. Look in another direction. How about that?”
Backers of the plan want to drill between three and ten miles offshore. While it’s not a perfect example as a reference point, the Venice fishing pier is exactly three miles from the South Jetty. Many of the people we talked to say they were under the impression three miles meant they couldn’t see it. While the pier may be bigger then a rig, it’s far from out of sight. “Who wants to see that? You come down here for the pretty views, not to see an oil rig,” says Merton.
Even those for drilling have reserves about it being so close. “I don’t think I would like that. I would rethink that position. But if it was five, seven, twelve miles out then I’m all for it,” says Degon.
Boaters will tell you the coast is often still visible from ten.
Compton says it’s more than the rigs. “The other thing being that close in is we would have to look at impacts from pipelines that would probably encroach our coast. We would have to look at impacts from oil refineries. Also the transportation of the oil if it is found.”
Swier says giving up the view is a small price for the positives drilling off the coast can bring. “I’m more interested in my son and my grandchildren having a prosperous state of Florida with tremendous business opportunities. Energy is a huge industry.”
The Florida Senate is running out of time in the current legislative session. They likely won’t vote until next year.
Thursday we will take a look at some of the possible financial and environmental impacts drilling off the coast could have.