Watching GovernmentFueling Florida

Aug. 16, 1999
The Sunshine State doesn't get nearly enough heat for its selfish attitude toward oil and gas production.

The Sunshine State doesn't get nearly enough heat for its selfish attitude toward oil and gas production.

Florida ranks 8th among U.S. states in total energy consumption. It has minuscule oil and gas production and imported 806,000 b/d of petroleum to supply half of its energy needs in 1996.

Natural gas use was 485 bcf in 1997, and several pipelines are proposed to bring in more Gulf of Mexico supplies to meet soaring demand.

That's fine with Florida, as long as the gas comes from somewhere else.

The state has been successful in thwarting exploration off most of its coast. Now it wants the whole cake.

Rep. Porter Goss (R-Fla.) is pushing an antidevelopment bill that he says has the support of the entire congressional delegation and Gov. Jeb Bush.

Goss is the second-ranking Republican on the powerful House rules committee, so the House energy and mineral resources subcommittee recently held a hearing on his bill. It has no chance of passing as a stand-alone measure.


Goss's bill creates an aura of reasonableness to mask an unfair goal.

The Clinton administration already has banned all leasing off eastern, southern, and most of western Florida until after 2012. All that's left is a relatively small area 15 miles off Alabama and more than 100 miles off Florida.

The bill would stall development on 110 existing leases in that part of the Eastern Gulf and block the Minerals Management Service from offering more tracts in a lease sale proposed for late 2001.

Goss explained his bill would defer leasing and development until a federal-state task force could review existing scientific studies and determine if new ones were needed.

After those studies, the panel would determine which areas-"if any," Goss said-could be developed. No leasing could occur before 2012.

Goss said, "We recognize that the oil and gas people have a legitimate interest in these leases. We're not interested in doing anything but creating certainty."

No, thanks

MMS Director Walt Rosenbusch testified that the current leasing and development system contains adequate safeguards for Florida.

He said that, although none of the existing leases are producing, "Many have been explored, several have producible wells, and in at least one instance, the lessees are pursuing efforts to develop a significant natural gas find on their leases."

Charles Bedell, Murphy Exploration & Production Co.'s environmental and government affairs manager, testified for several oil associations. He said environmental studies have been more than adequate.

"Over $20 million has been spent on completed environmental studies offshore Florida's Gulf Coast, with another $55.6 million invested in ongoing studies. These studies have covered everything from trends in recreation and commercial fishing to habitat impacts of offshore drilling.

"Compared to the sound science and operating history of the offshore industry, the doomsday fears and contentions of the activist community are not the appropriate basis for (this) highly restrictive legislation," he said.