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.
CRC - 2017 P 91
By Commissioner Thurlow-Lippisch
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
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
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
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