Congressman Vern Buchanan

Representing the 16th District of Florida

Buchanan to Interior Secretary: No Gulf Drilling!

Mar 27, 2017
Press Release
Congressman Longtime Foe of Risky Drilling

“Our Beaches, Economy at Stake”

WASHINGTON — Congressman Vern Buchanan, a longtime opponent of drilling in the Gulf, announced today he has joined a bipartisan group in Congress urging Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke to forgo any plan to drill off Florida’s coast. 

In a letter sent to Zinke, Buchanan and others urged the secretary to consider all that would be lost if a serious spill occurred.

Earlier this month the Trump administration released a proposal that could open up more than 70 million acres off the coast of Florida to oil and gas drilling over the next five years starting this August.

Buchanan aims to protect Florida’s coastline from oil spills such as the 2010 Deepwater Horizon catastrophe – one of the worst environmental disasters in U.S. history. 

“Florida’s beaches and economy are at risk,” the group wrote. “Drilling in this area threatens Florida’s multi-billion-dollar, tourism-driven economy.”

The Deepwater Horizon oil spill nearly seven years ago spewed more than four million barrels of oil into the Gulf of Mexico, claimed the lives of 11 workers, decimated the region’s iconic wildlife and severely damaged our fishing and tourism industries.

As Floridians know all too well, an oil spill can devastate a regional economy and inflict long-term environmental damage.

Buchanan said: “Florida’s coastal communities depend on a clean and healthy ocean and we shouldn’t jeopardize the state’s economy or environment by gambling on operations that lack adequate safeguards.”

Buchanan’s opposition to drilling off the Florida coast includes strong support for 2016 Interior Department rules spelling out national well safety requirements, such as more frequent testing of blowout preventers. He has co-sponsored the Preserving Florida’s Coastal Communities Act, which would prohibit drilling within 125 miles of Florida’s shores in the Gulf of Mexico until 2027. Under current law, such drilling is prohibited until 2022. The Congressman also sponsored legislation in 2011 that would stop Cuba from drilling within 50 miles of Florida and voted against opening Florida’s coast to drilling in 2011. 

Florida, which was severely impacted by the Deepwater Horizon spill, is slated to receive $3.25 billion from British Petroleum as a result of a 2015 settlement. Florida joined other Gulf states and the federal government in suing British Petroleum after the spill.

Full letter text below:

Dear Secretary Zinke,

As you begin your service as Secretary of the Interior, we are writing to convey our strong opposition to offshore oil drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

Drilling in this area threatens Florida’s multi-billion-dollar, tourism-driven economy and is incompatible with the military training and weapons testing that occurs there.

In 2006, Congress passed the Gulf of Mexico Energy and Security Act (P.L. 109-432), which created a moratorium on drilling in most of the eastern Gulf of Mexico – including all areas east of the Military Mission Line.

It’s been nearly seven years since the Deepwater Horizon explosion fifty miles off the coast of Louisiana claimed the lives of eleven men and ruined an entire tourism season for the Gulf states. And we still don’t know the full extent of the damage done to marine life such as dolphins and sea turtles.

This tragedy was a painful reminder that Florida’s beaches and economy are at risk even when oil rigs are hundreds of miles away from its shores.

In addition to its economic value, the eastern Gulf of Mexico provides a critical testing and training range for our nation’s military – the largest such training area in the United States. For example, pilots at Eglin Air Force Base in Pensacola, Florida, use the open space to train with the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter jets.

In 2015, the Department of Defense reiterated its opposition to offshore drilling activities in this vital training area. As a former Navy SEAL, you understand the importance of ensuring that the men and women of our armed forces have access to the best training opportunities available.

We expect that as our nation’s newest Interior Secretary you will follow both the letter and the spirit of the law that currently bans drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, and we strongly urge you to heed the recommendations of the Department of Defense and coastal communities by keeping offshore drilling rigs out of the area.