Time for Florida’s Constitution to Say “No” to Coastal Oil and Gas Drilling

A bird covered in oil after the Deep Water Horizon explosion, 2010. Photo courtesy of Associated Press.
Deepwater Horizon explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, courtesy of Associated Press,  2010.

When I moved to Pensacola Beach, Florida to teach high school in the early 1990s, I was surprised to see that the local community was marching in the streets protesting oil drilling. “Lucky we don’t have to do that in South Florida,” I thought. Here it is over 25 years later, and I am writing about why the Florida Constitution should say “no” to oil and gas drilling off all Florida beaches.

The final Constitution Revision Commission (CRC: http://flcrc.gov) proposal I am sponsoring is #91: “A proposal to amend Section 7 of Article II of the State Constitution to prohibit oil drilling for exploration and extraction in specified coastal waters.”

This proposal came to my attention through Mr Manley Fuller, the president of the Florida Wildlife Federation, and well-known Tallahassee attorneys Patsy Palmer and Sandy D’Alemberte. This once “citizen initiative” was filed with the Secretary of State and supporters had begun to collect signatures.

As you may know, in Florida, one way the public has a right to propose amendments to Florida’s Constitution is through a citizen initiative petition process. The process is very expensive and incredibly arduous. Some, over time, are successful.

What I have learned in my time, this year, serving as a Constitution Revision Commissioner is that the five different ways an idea can get into the constitution are all connected. (The 5 ways: http://www.floridataxwatch.org/resources/pdf/ConstAmends.pdf)

For instance, an idea may start in the legislature and fail; so someone turns it into a citizens initiative years later, and that may not get all the signatures it needs; so the CRC rolls around and someone like me picks it again! And so on…Getting changes into Florida’s constitution is a “process.” If the idea has importance for voters, it’s about keeping the ball  in the air!

With the possibility of the federal government getting closer and closer to opening oil drilling off all Florida, and every newspaper writing about this in the state, we must be aware that some members of our State Legislature have forgotten or were not here for the Deep Water Horizon disaster. They see oil and gas drilling as a positive.  The time is now for Florida voters to make a constitutional statement that it is not.


Before I close, Let’s ask ourselves: how do drilling rights work anyway?

Oil drilling leases are complicated and they involve all levels of government. The Federal Government’s Exclusive Economic Zone, and the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act  govern federal jurisdiction over submerged lands on the Outer Shelf.  However, the Submerged Lands Act of 1953 grants individual States rights to the natural resources of submerged lands from the coastline to no more thane 3 nautical miles. Florida, though, due to foresight those before us, is an exception.  Our boarders are defined in our state constitution in Article 11 Section 1, to include the eastern edge of the ever-moving Gulf Stream, or three miles off, what ever is further, and 3 marine leagues into the Gulf of Mexico (almost 10 miles). This is much more than most states get! Voters could make this language even stronger.

As always it will be a balance, a fight, between powers, but having a strong Florida Constitution will help tremendously in holding our own. As a peninsula at sea surrounded by beaches that bring in billions of dollars, and define the mystique of the state, oil and gas drilling is not a benefit here. The risk it too high; it’s simply is not worth it.

“No” to Coastal Oil & Gas Drilling”  #91: http://flcrc.gov/Proposals/Commissioner/2017/0091

       CRC - 2017                                                  P 91

       By Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch

       thurlowlj-00106-17                                      201791__
    1                         A proposal to amend
    2         Section 7 of Article II of the State Constitution to
    3         prohibit oil drilling for exploration and extraction
    4         in specified coastal waters.
    6  Be It Proposed by the Constitution Revision Commission of
    7  Florida:
    9         Section 7 of Article II of the State Constitution is
   10  amended to read:
   11                             ARTICLE II
   12                         GENERAL PROVISIONS
   13         SECTION 7. Natural resources and scenic beauty.—
   14         (a) It shall be the policy of the state to conserve and
   15  protect its natural resources and scenic beauty. Adequate
   16  provision shall be made by law for the abatement of air and
   17  water pollution and of excessive and unnecessary noise and for
   18  the conservation and protection of natural resources.
   19         (b) Those in the Everglades Agricultural Area who cause
   20  water pollution within the Everglades Protection Area or the
   21  Everglades Agricultural Area shall be primarily responsible for
   22  paying the costs of the abatement of that pollution. For the
   23  purposes of this subsection, the terms “Everglades Protection
   24  Area” and “Everglades Agricultural Area” shall have the meanings
   25  as defined in statutes in effect on January 1, 1996.
   26         (c) To protect the people of Florida and their environment,
   27  oil drilling for exploration or extraction is prohibited in and
   28  beneath all state waters between the mean high tide line and the
   29  outermost boundaries of the state’s territorial seas. This
   30  prohibition does not apply to the transportation of oil and gas
   31  products produced outside of such waters. This section is self
   32  executing.

Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch is a commissioner on the 2017/18 Constitution Revision Commissioner. This proposal has not been referred to a committee yet, but you can support is by writing any of the commissioners, especially the Chair, here: http://flcrc.gov/Commissioners

Jacqui can be reached here: https://www.flcrc.gov/Commissioners/Thurlow-Lippisch

Learn about the CRC here:http://www.flcrc.gov

In this file photo made June 3, 2010, a brown pelican covered in oil sits on the beach at East Grand Terre Island along the Louisiana coast in the wake of the BP Deepwater Horizon rig explosion. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel, File)

Florida’s Outer Continental Shelf: https://www.boem.gov/Outer-Continental-Shelf/

Florida Senate Legal Issue and State Authority Related to Territorial Waters: http://archive.flsenate.gov/data/Publications/2008/Senate/reports/interim_reports/pdf/2008-142ju.pdf

Pensacola News Journal 2017: http://www.pnj.com/story/news/2017/10/19/dont-open-eastern-gulf-mexico-offshore-drilling-guestview/780605001/

Panama City: http://www.newsherald.com/news/20170816/our-view-deadline-for-comment-on-drilling-is-now

Tampa Bay Times: http://web.tampabay.com/news/politics/national/trumps-executive-order-on-offshore-oil-drilling-sets-up-clash-with-florida/2322047

Miami Herald: http://www.miamiherald.com/news/politics-government/article147492219.html

* As of 11-20-17: This proposal has not yet been referred to a committee/s; it should be within a few weeks: http://flcrc.gov/Commissioners/Thurlow-Lippisch

6 thoughts on “Time for Florida’s Constitution to Say “No” to Coastal Oil and Gas Drilling

  1. Jacquie, I stumbled on your blog by mere chance and said “I thought it was spelled ‘Jackie’.” There were only two girls in my 4th grade class, Jackie and Dianne. There were eight boys. Take a wild guess which one I am? Once Drew and me and Eric were riding bikes round the block and we bet you we could race you to the other side of the block. We rode like demons while you ran. You must have flown over fences and rooftops. We had to go the long way around the block. There you were. You beat us. I hope you’re still running. You were a natural. Yep, that’s me. I looked like ‘Opie’.

    I’ll say it’s impressive what you’re doing to preserve the water. I’m settled far north in Appalachia, which is the oldest mountain range on Earth. The Blue Ridge/Allegheny/Catskills makes a horseshoe through the Arctic and becomes the fijords of Norway. The Rocky Mountains may be taller, but they have risen and fallen many times while the Appalachians have existed since Pangaea. It is geologically the most stable place around.

    Anyways, since you’re an eco driver, I’ll mention an idea I’ve had for awhile – To plant redwood trees on the East coast. They grow at 600 ft elevation on the wet or seaward side of a mountain range, which is basically what you have inland from Ga to Maine. AND the climate is changing. You know if California goes into the ocean or if the caldera blows – there goes the redwoods and I’ve seen the petrified forests in Co.

    It would be possible to get sequoia and california giant saplings from the west coast conservatories. They’re not an indigenous species to the east, so they would have to be ornamental. I’ll plant two in my front yard. Every mcmansion should have two in front. I mentioned to a neighbor how they grow 400 ft tall and they panicked “Oh no, if it falls it will take out the entire block”. So silly, they take 200 years to mature so it’s not like they have to worry. 1000 years from now though, kids will look at the Atlantic redwood forests and thank the stars that someone had the foresight to plant some before California got eaten by the sea.

    Well just a thought. You’re an enviro minded person – redwoods/sequoias on the east coast sound like a win?

    Take care Jacquie .

    1. What a wonderful way to being my day reading this message! Opie? Phillip? No Mark! A hoot! Very interesting to read your idea. Wow. Yes things are changing a lot. I have “Meditations of John Muir,” by my desk. My mother nursed me in that redwood forest as I was born a Travis Air Force Base. She has often said perhaps it was those times that made me like I am –although no memories. My husband and I went back a few years ago and it was incredible those giant trees, the sequoia too. Your thought is fascinating. Please call me call or text me at 772 -486-3818 if you get this message with your other info too. I look forward to being in touch!PS I was Jackie. I changed in 8th grade as I wanted a cooler spelling…:)

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