In the early 1990s, I came to Pensacola from UF in Gainesville, to teach German and English at Pensacola High School in both the traditional and International Baccalaureate Program.
I learned perhaps as much as my students. It was hard and rewarding work. I matured here one could say.
Maturing didn’t just involve the discipline of being a teacher, but also the responsibility of my first dog. “Dash,” as he was named for his ability to sprint. Dash was a stray I found in Downtown’s Seville Square. He was as beautiful and white as Pensacola Beach with black spots over his eyes. Even my parents visited to meet him!
Every evening he sat by my side for hours as I graded papers long into night. I would leave at 6 am for the first bell at 7:01. When I got home from a day of teaching, Dash and I would swim at Pensacola Beach or take long walks to Fort Pickens and then of course, grade papers,
These were wonderful times! The powerful simplicity of the blue sky, the green waves, the white sands, and my white and black best friend, forever left an impression on me.
This past Wednesday, I presented, P91 or “No Oil and Gas Drilling in Florida’s Territorial Seas” to the Declaration of Rights Committee of the Constitution Revision Commission. This was the second and final committee hearing and it passed! My other four environmental proposals were “killed”…
To be clear, as it is confusing, there are coastal territorial seas and there are offshore federal waters. This proposal would protect our territorial seas, our state waters, the waters under our jurisdiction. These waters have been drilled before and, hands down, if the oil and gas industry can, they will influence our state legislature so that they can drill our coastal waters again. There is no doubt about it. Just study history!
We all know, drilling so close to shore, as is done in other coastal southern states, would be visually, environmentally, and economically destructive to Florida’s unique/peninsular marine, real estate, and tourism resouces.
It is written in Article II of our state constitutional that “we shall protect our natural resources and scenic beauty.” P91 belongs in Florida’s Constitution. It would be an enormous statement on behalf of the people of Florida and would have major policy implications on many levels helping to keep all oil drilling away from our state today and in the future.
P91 is now one of 37 proposals of 103 that made it through the CRC committee process.
Today I am publishing the notes from my presentation that should be interesting and informative to readers.
Thank you for following the CRC process and I will keep you appraised of P91 as the CRC process continues and we move towards what gets on the ballot for 2018.
In the end, we must do something for our environment!
P91, presentation Declaration of Rights 1-31-18
Greetings Chair Carlton and Honorable Commissioners; I am Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch from the Town of Sewall’s Point in Martin County.
This morning, I am pleased to be presenting P91, also known as, “no oil and gas drilling in Florida’s territorial seas.”
~So you may ask,“ what are Florida’s territorial seas?”
The boundaries of Florida’s territorial seas are based on the foresight of our forefathers who expanded the boundaries of Florida, accepted into Florida’s Constitution in 1868 during the era we rejoined the Union. These boundaries are defined as: three marine leagues, or approximately 9 miles, on to the west coast, in the Gulf of Mexico, and extending as far as the shifting Gulf Stream, or three miles east, which ever is further, into the Atlantic Ocean off Florida’s east coast.
The US Code defines Florida’s territorial seas as three marine leagues on the west cost, and three miles out on the east coast.
Most of us have forgotten our history, but in 1944 Florida sold “everything hugging the shore out to 10.36 miles, from Apalachicola to Naples,” on the Gulf Coast to Arnold Oil Company. These lands consisted of of 3.6 million acres.
After decades of embittered fighting, unsuccessful exploration, and a movement to end the leases, in 1989 the Florida legislature banned oil and gas drilling in Florida’s territorial waters and stopped collecting lease money from the oil company that had the rights to these leases lands.
The battle ensued over time and party lines, but in 2002 Governor Jeb Busch with the help of his brother, the president of the United States, arranged for the oil company to accept 12.5 million state dollars to “abandon all further claims.” This transaction was finalized by 2005 with great fanfare of the public that was ecstatic to have Florida’s beautiful beaches and important natural resources “off the table.”
And yet by 2006 there were rumblings and by 2009, there was even serious talk of a bill on the floor of the Florida Legislature allowing for drilling within five miles of Florida’s west coast. Once again, tremendous pressure to reopen Florida’s territorial seas!
In 2010 the nightmare of the BP Deepwater Horizon really took this possibility off the table for discussion, but we must not be naive, especially in the current climate, this threat to our shores is still there!
Today, you as Commissions of the Constitution Revision Commission have a chance to make history by voting “yes” on P91 “no oil and gas drilling in Florida’s territorial seas,” giving the possibility for Floridians to put language into our state constitution in 2018 that would protect Florida.
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.
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.
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