Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Florida lawmakers might reconsider offshore drilling

Oil & Gas Journal editors for decades have monitored discussions about possible drilling in the Gulf of Mexico off Florida. There is interest in a band of leases 7-10 miles off the coast south of Naples.

It’s believed the area has geology similar to the giant Jay oil field in the Florida Panhandle. Jay field, discovered in 1970, was the largest US discovery since the supergiant Prudhoe Bay oil field on Alaska’s North Slope (OGJ, Sept. 29, 1997, p. 101).

The Florida legislative session starts Mar. 2, and lawmakers again are expected to discuss whether the state should allow oil and gas exploration in state water off the Gulf Coast, where a ban has been effective since 1990. Tourism, especially visitors frequenting the beaches, is the often-cited reason for the ban.

Last year, the Florida House passed a bill that would have moved to allow drilling, but the idea stalled in the Senate. Senate President Jeff Atwater, R-North Palm Beach, ordered an analysis before the Senate can take any action.

Atwater is running for state chief financial officer. If lawmakers were to lift the ban, then a final decision on whether to offer drilling leases likely would fall to the state Cabinet, which involves the governor, attorney general, chief financial officer, and agriculture commissioner.

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