SAND KEY – Representatives from the member municipalities of the Barrier Islands Governmental Council gathered at the Clearwater Community Sailing Center on July 29 to discuss a broad range of topics. However, when North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen held up a picture of oil washed up on a beach in Texas, the issue of big oil became the focus of the meeting.
Offshore oil drilling has been a major subject for Florida lawmakers in recent months. In April, Florida State Rep. Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, pushed a bill in the State House of Representatives that would lift a ban on offshore oil drilling and allow the state to begin accepting bids from oil companies to drill between 3 and 10 miles off Florida beaches.
Originally published in Barrier Islands Gazette
“For us in Pinellas County, offshore oil drilling is not a red or blue issue, it’s a white issue. We want to keep our beaches white,” said Pinellas County Commissioner Kenneth T. Welch, District 7, referring to how Pinellas County’s tourism industry is largely supported by the presence of clean, accessible beaches.
Welch, who attended the meeting as a special guest, was an obvious opponent of big oil’s coastal interests. “It’s also a green issue,” Welch said. “ ‘Drill, baby, drill’ is not going to fix our economy.”
Nick Fritch, representing the Sand Key Civic Association, briefed the council about a new committee he is putting together to oppose oil and gas rig drilling off the Florida coast.
“The purpose of our committee is to draft a plan to oppose oil drilling in the coastal region,” said Fritch. “We are going to build a quality message to argue to the legislature.”
The proposed committee anticipates oil interests and their lobbyists will return to the 2010 Florida
State Legislature seeking approval. The BIG-C approved a motioned to support the committee.
Oil lobbyists request a meeting with the BIG-C
“I’ve been contacted by some people who would like to have the opportunity to come and speak to the BIG-C,” said Indian Shores Mayor and BIGC President Jim Lawrence.
“They specifically mentioned a gentleman by the name of Mr. David Mica of the Florida Petroleum
After a 20-minute debate about whether to allow oil lobbyists to address the BIG-C at the
Aug. 26 meeting, they decided to grant Mica an allotment of time on the next agenda.
St. Pete Beach Mayor Michael Finnerty was strongly opposed, stating, “I really don’t care to hear what this guy has to say.”
“I really don’t have a problem with hearing from people on different issues, but we have to have a counter on that issue and we have to have a time limit,” North Redington Beach Mayor Bill Queen said.
That counter-view could come from Susan Glickman, climate and energy advocate for the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Glickman, who is an outspoken opponent of big oil and its coastal interests, warned of a new proposed energy bill that would allow oil drilling up to 45 miles off the Florida coastline. “I’m here to convey urgency of a proposal, which is a threat not only at the state level, but at the federal level as well,” she said.
“With all my years in Tallahassee I have never seen the town painted with money like they have. They’ve hired umpteen lobbyists, tens of millions of dollars, television commercials. I’ve never seen anything like it,” Glickman said.