In the wake of the BP spill in the Gulf of Mexico, high-profile Florida Republicans are backing off their support for offshore drilling around the state. Among those with new-found reservations are current Florida house speaker Dean Cannon, attorney general/gubernatorial candidate Bill McCollum, and the soon-to-be independent Gov. Charlie Crist:
After a 90-minute plane flight Tuesday above the spill, which was spreading in an 80-by-42-mile blob, Crist said, “Clearly it could be devastating to Florida if something like that were to occur. It’s the last thing in the world I would want to see happen in our beautiful state.”
He 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. He had said previously that he would support drilling if it was far enough from shore, safe enough and clean enough. He said the spill is proof that that is not possible.
“Clearly that one isn’t far enough, and that’s about 50 to 60 miles out. It’s clearly not clean enough after we saw what we saw today — that’s horrific — and it certainly isn’t safe enough. It’s the opposite of safe,” Crist said.
Earlier in the day the Legislature’s main advocate of drilling, incoming House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Orlando, said the disaster had him asking questions.
“It causes me to want to examine what happened and how it could have been prevented, and we need to figure that out before we make any further decisions,” said Cannon, who has proposed allowing rigs as close as three miles off Florida’s beaches.
Before the spill, Cannon had promised to bring the drilling proposal back up when he becomes speaker next year, touting the millions of dollars in revenue and thousands of jobs that would be created by near-shore drilling.
But Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, a fellow Republican running for governor, said Cannon should forget about passing that bill in 2011 because “he’ll face a veto on my desk if he brings it up the way it is now. I know it’s a revenue-producer, but that’s not a good enough reason.”
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