What is keeping another drilling project from taking place in the Gulf of Mexico? After 2022, the answer is nothing.
On Sept. 11, the U.S. House of Representatives passed the Protecting and Securing Florida’s Coastline Act of 2019. The bill would ban the practice of drilling in the Gulf permanently. The Senate has yet to pass it.
In 2018, Floridians overwhelmingly supported a ballot initiative that would “ban offshore drilling for oil and natural gas on land beneath all state waters.” The ballot initiative passed with 68 percent of the vote with over 5 million votes.
This state referendum does nothing to bar drilling from the portion of the Gulf of Mexico outside of the state’s territorial seas.
This is a serious concern to many environmentally conscious USF students including, Maria Lorena.
“I can tell you there was an oil spill recently in what once was one of the most beautiful Caribbean beaches in Venezuela,” Lorena said. “Do you want that to happen to our Florida beaches? No thanks.”
What is really troubling is that, beyond the Floridian U.S. House constituency, the House passed the bill on mostly partisan lines. Only 22 out of the 196 Republicans supported the effort and 13 of them were from Florida.
This shows that Republicans have little concern for Florida’s waters, which should make environmentalists across the nation nervous about whether this will actually make it through the Republican-controlled Senate.
The fate of Florida’s coastlines is in the hands of Sen. Rick Scott (R-FL) and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL). It is up to them to make the case to their Republican colleagues to pass this bill.
On March 7th, Rubio and Scott sent a letter to the Trump administrations acting Interior Secretary to keep Florida’s Coastal waters out of consideration for offshore oil and gas extraction for the next 5 years.
Rather than kicking the can down the road, the Senators can show real initiative and protect the Gulf of Mexico from pollution for generations.
It is incumbent on them to appeal to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) to bring the bill up for a vote soon, as well as convince their fellow Republicans to vote alongside them.
It is easy to write a letter to the executive branch, but it is more difficult to implement lasting legislation. Let’s hope that the senators’ words are followed up with action.
Jared Sellick is a junior majoring in political science.