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CRC Amendment 9: No Drilling, No Vaping


In our next look at the proposed amendments from the Constitutional Revision Commission affecting northwest Florida, WUWF’s Dave Dunwoody looks at the one dealing with offshore drilling and vaping.

It’s perhaps the “Odd Couple” among the 12 proposed amendments – including the ones from the Legislature and from petitions. If approved by 60 percent of voters in November, Amendment-9 would ban offshore gas and oil drilling off Florida – along with vaping and electronic cigarettes in the workplace.

“Clean air, clean water in that case,” said former State Sen. And panel member Don Gaetz. The CRC meets every 20 years to review the Florida Constitution and propose changes. No other state does that and Gaetz says it’s a little bit different than a pure constitutional convention.

“I believe the commission as a whole worked well together; there was a broad spectrum ideologically, it was a bipartisan commission,” Gaetz said. “We came together on the eight proposals that we’re putting on the ballot. I’m ecstatic about the ban on offshore drilling.”

“The people of Florida at the political level and the business community; they’ve all been nearly unanimous in their push against drilling. That we don’t want drilling here in Florida,” said Christian Wagley with the Gulf Restoration Network.

Credit commondreams.org

Speaking earlier this year at Casino Beach, he said the Department of the Interior has yet to make a decision on the prospect of drilling off the entire 12,000 miles of U.S. coastline.

“They are currently sifting through hundreds of thousands of comments they’ve received from all over the country about the drilling issue,” Wagley said. “We expect to hear back later this year or it could be in early 2019 before we know whether they’re going to move forward with expanded drilling here in the eastern Gulf.”

“Surreal” and “bizarre,” and “like something out of a movie,” are words used by David Mica – executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council. He claims the proposal was not framed correctly because drilling in state waters was banned in 2006.

“The framework should have been, ‘Should we raise the bar on offshore drilling, for something that’s against the law and the statutes, to something that belongs in our constitution?’” said Mica. “And that just didn’t make much sense.”

The moratorium against drilling in federal waters off Florida expires in 2022, and has no bearing on Amendment-9. Mica believes that offshore exploration will be a hot topic on the campaign trail this year, at all levels.

“It will be a question of supporting American energy, American jobs, and national security,” said Mica. “Versus the usual sort of fear-mongering. Cast in the middle of that is the genuine concern about our precious natural resources and our tourism industry, which is totally reliant on available and affordable energy to get to our great state.”

Improvements in technology and regulations, Mica argues, can lead to a balance between oil and gas production and other offshore activities.

“Certainly, folks are going to bring up Deepwater Horizon,” Mica said. “That can’t be avoided. However, lessons were learned, technologies were improved and we’re probably safer now offshore – not probably – we are safer now offshore in the production of oil and gas in the history of Man.”

“Coastal tourism, fishing, [and] ocean-based recreation depend on healthy oceans; and offshore oil drilling is not compatible with Florida’s coastal economy and our way of life,” said J.J. Watters with the Surf Rider Foundation’s Emerald Coast Chapter. She also lives on Santa Rosa Island.

“The mission is really simple and clear: it’s about clean water, [and] healthy beaches, Watters says. “We’re committed to educating others using our resources to seek a comprehensive and environmentally-sustainable energy plan that includes energy conservation and alternative, renewable resources.”

As for Amendment-9’s proposed vaping ban, David Mica at the Florida Petroleum Council is trying to wrap his head around that.

“It’s pretty popular, and I’ve also learned that people use those things to move away from tobacco,” said Mica. “I don’t know the full impact of what it means with the two things together, except that I think it’s been roundly disapproved of by editorial types.”

Constitutional Revision Commission Chairman Carlos Beruff said he’s pleased with the outcome of the commission’s work, including the proposed drilling and vaping bans.

Now it’s up to the voters on November 6.