Drive Kicks Off to Ban Offshore Drilling

Former Gov. Charlie Crist, right, and former CFO Alex Sink on the steps of the Capitol Wednesday. (AP Photo)
TALLAHASSEE (2011-2-9) -

A group of legislators gathered on the Capitol steps in Tallahassee to kickoff a drive to ban oil and gas drilling in state waters offshore. Among the mostly Democratic gathering was former governor Charlie Crist.

Crist and former CFO Alex Sink joined the crowd outside the old Capitol with a message: drilling should be banned in the strip from 3 to 10 miles offshore that is owned by the state. A bill has been introduced in the legislature to do just that. And just in case that fails, organizers are starting up a petition drive to get a ban on the 2012 ballot.

Lawmakers refused to approve a ban last year when Crist had called a special session. In announcing a petition drive to place the question before voters, Crist said the ballot initiative will place the decision in the hands of the people.

"We tried legislatively last year, that didn’t work out. So now it has to be in the hands of the people to make this happen," says Crist. "So I want to implore all those who may be watching how important it is to utilize your ability to make a difference. If you don’t do it nobody else will."

Former CFO Alex Sink returned to the state Capitol to kick off the drive to place a constitutional amendment on the 2012 November Ballot.

"We have a very important tourism economy to protect," Sink says. "So the environmental issues and my gosh, I saw first hand Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Accidents do happen. And within 10 miles of our beaches there would be no opportunity to recover what could be a devastating event and we just don’t need it."

Although Democrats are the driving force behind the ban proposal, Preston Robertson of the Florida Wildlife Federation - one of the main organizers - says it's a bipartisan effort.

"Democrat, Republican and Independent, I think most people understand we need to keep tourists coming to this state," says Robertson. "We're not going to do that by having oil drilling within sight of the coast, waiting for the next spill."

They might have a long haul ahead. New governor Rick Scott has consistently favored drilling offshore.

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