Bipartisan Wasserman Schultz Marine Oil Spill Prevention Act to Ban Florida Offshore Drilling

Earth Day, Deepwater Horizon Anniversary Focuses Need to Shield Florida Shores

f t # e
Washington, April 22, 2019 | comments
“Protecting Florida’s shores from another Deepwater Horizon is vital for our state’s ecosystems and economy."
share: f t

Florida’s shores should never be exposed to gas and petroleum drilling, and the bipartisan comprehensive Marine Oil Spill Prevention Act that U.S. Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz introduced on Earth Day would permanently shield Florida’s sensitive coastlines from this perilous threat as well as establish much-needed safeguards to ensure that another Deepwater Horizon disaster does not happen again.  

“Protecting Florida’s shores from another Deepwater Horizon is vital for our state’s ecosystems and economy,” Wasserman Schultz said. “The Sunshine State’s coasts provide abundant marine life habitat and a destination for beach-lovers worldwide. They are an irreplaceable treasure and ecological necessity – risking our coasts for dangerous oil and gas drilling is unacceptable.”   

Nine years ago today the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig sank after 11 workers were killed two days earlier in a fireball explosion that later resulted in what is considered to be the largest marine oil spill ever. The devastating environmental repercussions and recovery efforts continue to this day. Some wetlands may never recover.

That tragic anniversary coincides with Earth Day, a worldwide environmental movement to address climate change and the global threats to our land, water and endangered species.

Ongoing gulf drilling activities pose an obvious and constant threat to coastal economies and marine populations. A Taylor Energy rig has leaked oil off the tip of Louisiana for 14 years, depositing a barrel a day on the surface water, according to the company. Placing a permanent moratorium on new drilling and making statutory and regulatory changes to diminish the chances for future spills is a common-sense solution to protect Florida’s sea life and coastal communities, and its vital fishing and tourism economies.

This legislation comes at a critical time for Florida’s coasts, as the Trump Administration is due to release its revised offshore drilling plan soon, and it reportedly includes Florida’s coasts. The Administration is also seeking to undo regulatory protections like the Well Control Rule. 

Original bipartisan sponsors of the Marine Oil Spill Prevention Act include U.S. Reps. Matt Gaetz (FL-1), Vern Buchanan (FL-16) and Debbie Mucarsel-Powell (FL-26).

“The BP Deepwater Horizon disaster revealed critical inadequacies in offshore drilling safety,” said Diane Hoskins, Oceana campaign director. “Coastal communities face unacceptable risk if President Trump’s plan for offshore drilling moves forward. Florida’s thriving tourist economy cannot afford for dirty and dangerous offshore drilling to get a single inch closer. We applaud Congresswoman Wasserman Shultz for leading this bipartisan effort.”

Environmental organizations such as Oceana, Natural Resources Defense Council, the Sierra Club Florida Chapter, and the National Parks Conservation Association have endorsed the bill.

The bill would:

  • Establish a permanent ban on oil and gas drilling around Florida’s coastlines;
  • Direct the Coast Guard to designate areas that are at heightened risk of oil spills and implement measures to ameliorate that risk;
  • Create a Gulf Coast Regional Citizens' Advisory Council made up of gulf region fishing, tourism, and conservation groups and state and federal marine and environmental agencies to advise on facilities and tank vessels;
  • Make all owners of oil responsible for spill cleanup (currently, owners of oil are only responsible if the oil is being transported in a single-hull vessel);
  • Require a comprehensive review of NOAA’s capacity to respond to oil spills;
  • Direct NOAA to carry out a long-term marine environment monitoring and research program for the Gulf of Mexico.
f t # e