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Drilling Ban Extension Resolution Passes Senate Committee

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A resolution passed by a Florida Senate Committee Wednesday calls on Congress to continue a moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the eastern Gulf of Mexico to help prevent conflicts with military training.

The moratorium is set to expire in 2022.

SR-1820 was approved unanimously by the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee. It’s a non-binding measure filed by State Senator Ed Hooper, a Republican from Palm Harbor stating the importance of the eastern Gulf – GoMex – as a range for military training.

“It’s interesting to point out that the GoMex range is bigger than all other military training ranges in the United States combined,” said Hooper. “There are over 12 million acres outside of the GoMex range that are currently leased to oil and gas exploration companies, available for drilling.”

Florida’s Gulf Coast waters, contends Hooper, offer the military a training region unlike anywhere else in the nation, and even the potential for any drilling expansion could jeopardize thousands of military jobs in the state.

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Credit Florida Senate
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FL Sen. Ed Hooper (R-Palm Harbor).

“It’s important for our airbases and our naval training centers. They do use live ammunition and weaponry occasionally. That would not go well with a derrick that is out drilling oil in the gulf,” Hooper told the committee.

“It is critical that our nation’s national security be protected. It’s also very important, that as an element of that protection, that we develop our resources associated with oil and gas,” said David Mica with the Florida Petroleum Council.

Mica and other supporters of offshore oil drilling say the need for domestic oil production is expanding.

“This resolution just addresses my industry, and it’s kind of unfair to us because we’re trying to get American energy,” said Mica. “Seventeen percent of our nation’s energy does come from the Gulf of Mexico. We would hope the Florida Legislature wouldn’t send this resolution to Congress.”

“Don’t you think what’s happened in lieu of Hurricane Michael, with Tyndall [Air Force Base, damaged by Michael], that Florida really does need to send a strong statement that we’re committed to the military?” asked committee member Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze).

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Credit wfsu.org
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FL Sen. Doug Broxson (R-Gulf Breeze).

“It is critical that our nation’s natural security be protected,” Mica responded. “It’s also very important that – as an element of that protection – that we develop our resources associated with oil and gas. That is the elephant in the room when it comes to energy.”

SR-1820 now must pass one more committee in the Senate before being heard by the whole chamber; meanwhile, a similar House bill is ready for floor debate.