Public Hearing: Majority Against Oil Drilling Off Florida Coast

Florida residents are finally getting a chance to weigh in on the debate over offshore drilling, but will their voices matter when it comes to the search for oil and gas off Florida’s coastline?

"The federal government is very close to making a decision to drill 100 miles closer to Florida’s coastline. That's something a lot of people will be concerned about if they hear about it,” says Frank Jackalone of Sierra Club.

It's why Jackalone and several other members of the Sierra Club have come to a public hearing put on by the Interior Department, specifically, Minerals Management Service.

MMS plans to allow oil and gas drilling in another two million acres off the Gulf Coast, and those plans originally didn't include input from Florida residents.

"This jeopardizes Florida's coast. We have a $17 billion tourism economy and a $6 billion Florida fishing industry that could be jeopardized if there's a major oil spill in the Gulf,” explains Jackalone.

“We’ve become increasingly dependent on foreign sources of oil and I think it's time to turn that around and encourage more oil and gas exploration and production in the
U.S.,” says Tallahassee resident John Malloy.

Most of this day's speakers against the offshore drilling plan included Leon County Commissioner Bob Rackleff, who leaves the hearing cautiously optimistic.

"Let’s remember that this service has at its chief mission to develop its oil resources of this country particularly the offshore resources, so I'm trying to be optimistic but they may not pay attention to us, but I hope they do,” Rackleff adds.

As do most people in this audience.

The governor, both U.S. senators and 79 state lawmakers are also going on record against the drilling proposal.