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BIG-C debates offshore oil drilling
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INDIAN SHORES – The Barrier Islands Governmental Council is considering a resolution opposing oil drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.

Council members of 11 barrier island municipalities unanimously agreed in June to reject an endorsement of oil drilling off Florida’s Gulf coast. Although all municipal representatives in attendance at the June 25 meeting voiced strong concern for the potential adverse impacts offshore oil drilling would bring to Gulf beaches, some members felt information to make a fully informed opinion was lacking.

BIG-C members at an Aug. 27 meeting seemed to agree that a statement of opposition is not sufficient and that alternatives to drilling should be made part of any resolution.

BIG-C Chairman and Indian Shores Mayor Jim Lawrence asked members to review a preliminary draft resolution opposing the drilling and make recommendations including language for energy alternatives to oil.

State Sen. Dennis Jones, R-Treasure Island, said 6 million acres have been leased and not yet drilled.

“We need to look at other sources,” he said.

Treasure Island Commissioner Phil Collins said, “Forty years ago we went to the moon and back. We have the technology. We are just spinning our wheels. We need to find alternative sources.”

“There are arguments on both sides,” said Indian Shores Councilor Bill Smith. “The side we should be on is the protection of our beaches without equivocation.”

Congressman C.W. Bill Young, R-Indian Shores, who was at the meeting to receive awards for his long time support of the beaches, said oil drilling off Florida’s cost is a major battle that all Floridians and others should engage in.

“I remember when Gulf Boulevard was covered with sand. It doesn’t happen anymore. We don’t want any tar balls on our beaches,” he said.

Young, as a member of the Florida Legislature, was instrumental in passing the Florida Oil Spill Prevention and Pollution Control Act in 1970.

He said the law was anathema to the oil and shipping companies and was vigorously challenged but was unanimously upheld by the Supreme Court in 1973. Because the law was tucked away in the annual fiscal appropriations bill, Young said he had to fight for the oil spill bill every year.

“Today, Florida has the strongest oil spill prevention control and cleanup law in the States,” he said.

Young said the beaches are vitally important to the area’s tourist economy.

“Visitors, including foreign visitors, come here for our beaches, important not only to Floridians but the nation as a whole,” Young said.
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