Offshore Drilling Bill Passes House; Panhandle Chambers Oppose

Chamber of commerce officials across the Panhandle are organizing opposition to any plans for expanding offshore oil and gas drilling in the Gulf.
During the last day of the State Legislative Session, the House passed a bill that would allow drilling as close as 3 miles to shore.
Every house member in this area voted for the bill.
Business officials are worried a similar bill will make it out of the legislature next spring, and become law.
Destin Chamber of Commerce officials are keeping a close eye on bill number 1219, which allows for oil and gas drilling from 3 to 10 miles offshore.
They're recruiting other area chambers to pass resolutions, opposing any drilling in the Gulf closer than 40 miles offshore.
People opposing the bill have two major concerns with offshore oil and gas drilling. The first is the possibility of an oil spill and the second, which seems to be causing an even greater concern, is the chance that offshore drilling will interfere with military training in our area.
"If the training missions over the Gulf are endangered or put into a position where they can't train over the Gulf, that has a dramatic impact to our quality of life and to the way we've grown accustom to living around here," says Destin Chamber President Shane Moody.
While State Representative Jimmy Patronis voted in favor of this Spring's drilling bill, he too says he won't sacrifice the local military mission.
"If drilling effects a single job here in Northwest Florida because military installations aren't being able to be as capable because of these obstacles, I would have problems with the legislation.”
But some locals are skeptical.
Destin attorney and chamber board member, David Pleat, believes house members passed the last-minute proposal as a way to eliminate community discussion on drilling.
"For it to come so late in the session suggests that that was deliberate in my view. But I can only hope that the citizens in this area will demand that their elected officials answer important questions about this bill and how it got to be and why they're pushing it at this time," says Pleat.
Destin's chamber is encouraging every chamber between Bay County and Pensacola to pass resolutions against the offshore oil and gas drilling bill.
"All the chambers are talking with each other right now and we're hoping we can make progress on this and defeat this bill," Moody says.
As of right now there are no special sessions scheduled.
Unless that changes, the issue won't be addressed until spring.

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