THE CAPITAL, TALLAHASSEE, April 27, 2011 -
Senate President Mike Haridopolos said in an interview broadcast Tuesday that new oil drilling is needed in the Gulf of Mexico, a reversal from last year, when, in the wake of the BP spill, he said Florida was going to “turn the page” away from drilling.
In an interview with Newsmax TV that was Webcast on Tuesday, Haridopolos, also a candidate for U.S. Senate, said that gas prices have changed the paradigm.
“We have to start drilling, we need to become more self-dependent,” Haridopolos said in the interview. “We need to open up those new opportunities in the Gulf and ANWR (the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge). Four dollars-plus in gasoline (is) crippling the middle class….America needs to lead by example.”
Haridopolos’ remarks contrast with what he said last July when he acknowledged after the BP oil spill that his previous push for new drilling in the Gulf didn’t account for the possibility of a spill.
“We tried to look at oil and natural gas production in the Gulf. We trusted that, at least in my lifetime … there had not been a major spill,” Haridopolos said then. “But guess what? We went to verify the scenario and it didn’t work for Floridians. So we need to try the unconventional way, the alternative way. We’re going to turn the page.”
Haridopolos, who had been pushing for new drilling in the nearshore Gulf up until the April 20, 2010 explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that resulted in the largest oil spill in U.S. history, called that spill “a game changer,” on the issue shortly thereafter.
But in December, he appeared to open the door up to changing his position, putting out a statement after President Obama extended a ban on drilling in the Gulf.
“While now is not the time to open up new drilling because of this summer’s Gulf oil spill, taking it off-the-table is irresponsible,” Haridopolos said in December. “We must ensure that innovative technology guarantees safe drilling and would not impact Florida’s environment or tourism industry. When safe drilling is available, we have an obligation to provide for the long-term economic well-being of our country and state.”
In the months after the spill, there was a federal ban on all new drilling in the Gulf, but that has since been lifted, and new deepwater drilling permits have been issued in the Gulf.
But a 2006 federal moratorium prevents drilling within 125 miles of Panhandle beaches and the state has its own two-decade-old ban on drilling in state waters, which extend about 10 miles from the Florida coast into the Gulf and 3 miles out into the Atlantic.
Lawmakers were close to ending that state water drilling ban when the spill happened. The House had voted to end the ban, but the measure was awaiting a Senate vote. At that time, the idea was scrapped.