Spill Reignites Offshore Drilling Debate
By Stateline Staff
The oil spill caused by the explosion of a rig off the coast of Louisiana last week is reigniting a debate in the states over whether offshore drilling is environmentally safe.
Florida Governor Charlie Crist took a 90-minute flight over the spill on Tuesday (April 27), The Miami Herald reported . Crist, who previously said he would support offshore drilling if it happened far enough away from shore and could be done safely and cleanly, seemed to change his mind after seeing the damage up close.
The governor said " there is no question now that lawmakers should give up on the idea of drilling off Florida's coast this year and in coming years," the Herald reported.
The paper also noted that the chief backer of offshore drilling in the Florida Legislature — incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon, who has sought to allow drilling as close as three miles from the shore — came under fire from attorney general and fellow Republican Bill McCollum, who is running for governor. Cannon has promoted drilling as a way to raise revenue and create jobs for the fiscally hurting state, but said he would revisit those plans following the Louisiana spill.
The Obama administration has proposed expanded offshore oil drilling as part of a larger energy policy now being debated in Congress. But last week's accident is certain to further complicate the administration's plans, which were controversial in the states from the moment they were announced .
In New Jersey on Tuesday, a federal panel heard testimony about the administration's drilling proposals, but environmentalists and other critics pointed to the Louisiana spill as proof that the practice is risky and should not be expanded near New Jersey, The Record reported . Governor Chris Christie opposes drilling near the state's coastline.
But other governors remained supportive, even after the accident. Virginia's Bob McDonnell, for example, called the spill a "setback" but said he believed the drilling process could be "re-engineered" to make it safer, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reported .