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Florida Lawmakers Take Bold Step to Secure State’s Energy Future

April 21, 2009

House Committee votes to empower Governor and Cabinet to evaluate offshore energy options

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Speaker-Designate Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park) unveiled a bold proposal today that would lift the state’s current ban on oil & gas exploration and production in the state waters off Florida’s coast – a move economists say could be worth at least $1.6 billion a year in state revenues and create more than 19,000 jobs.

The measure amended to CS/CS/HB 1219, which was approved by the Policy Council of the Florida House of Representatives, would not immediately trigger energy exploration in state waters. Instead, it would empower the Governor and Cabinet to consider a process for reviewing, approving or rejecting proposals for exploration and production of oil & gas in Florida’s state waters.

With Florida’s coast harboring anywhere from 3 billion to 20 billion barrels of oil, approved oil & gas leases could generate billions of dollars in new annual revenues – without raising new taxes.

“Florida’s families and businesses are facing unprecedented economic challenges, and the potential for significant, new public revenues from oil & gas are immense,” said Barney Bishop III, President and CEO of Associated Industries of Florida.  “I am confident that we can do this in a way that will protect our environment and our precious coastline, which is such a critical natural resource for our state.”

As Florida has been forced to make nearly $7 billion in painful budget cuts since 2007, Texas has collected nearly $7 billion in annual oil & gas revenues – revenues that fund significant portions of the state’s public K-12 and state university budgets.

“Floridians continue to suffer from devastating cuts to higher education, environmental protection, health care and vital infrastructure,” said Martha Barnett, partner at Holland & Knight and past president of the American Bar Association. “For the sake of our state’s future, we cannot delay discussion of this issue any longer, nor ignore the benefits that other states continue to derive from their energy resources.

Buoyed by the struggling economy and high energy prices, public opinion has swung decisively in favor of offshore energy exploration, as shown by many public opinion polls including a new survey of 625 voters conducted April 15-16 by Mason-Dixon Polling & Research.

Among the results of that survey:

  • 59 percent of Floridians generally support drilling off Florida’s coast,
  • 79 percent support drilling if it raises money for public education, health care and environmental protection,
  • 83 percent support drilling if it will produce new jobs and stimulate the economy, and
  • 88 percent support drilling if it is environmentally safe.

“Recent public opinion surveys document that Floridians have come to strongly support exploration and production of oil and gas resources off the Florida coast,” said Larry Harris, a principal with Mason-Dixon. “Nine in 10 voters (88 percent) support offshore production if it is done in an environmentally safe fashion and raises significant revenues, boosts the economy and creates jobs.”


For more information, please visit www.EnergyFLA.com.