Posted by: reefrescue | April 27, 2010

Crist calls oil spill a reason to rethink drilling

By Marc Caputo and Craig Pittman, Times-Herald staff writers
Posted: Apr 27, 2010 10:50 AM

The oil spill spreading across the Gulf of Mexico is sending ripples through Florida and national politics, giving Gov. Charlie Crist a reason to rethink his support for offshore drilling.Crist, who plans to chopper out from Pensacola to look at the Louisiana-based rig slick heading toward Florida’s beaches, told reporters Tuesday that any politician who backs drilling off the Florida coast should reconsider it in light of what’s happened.

“If this doesn’t give somebody pause, there’s something wrong,” Crist said. “This is, as I understand it, a pretty new rig with modern technology. As I’ve always said it would need to be far enough, clean enough and safe enough. I’m not sure this was far enough. I’m pretty sure it was not clean enough. And it doesn’t sound like it was safe enough. It’s not a great situation.”

The marshes of southern Louisiana and Mississippi appear to face the most immediate risk from the spill because they are closest to it, oceanographers say. However, if the leaking oil drifts far enough east to get caught in the gulf’s powerful loop current, it could wind up coating beaches in the Florida Keys and then be swept north along the state’s Atlantic coast.

Skimming vessels worked at removing the slick from the surface, after choppy weather over the weekend prevented them from working — another point that retired Florida State University oceanographer Wilton “Tony” Sturges said should be emphasized.

“The ‘drill, baby, drill’ people always say that if something bad happens, they can come out and clean it up quickly,” he said. But in this case, even weather that was slightly less than ideal prevented them from working, he pointed out.

Meanwhile airplanes are spraying a chemical dispersant into the water to break up the slick.

“Great!” Sturges said. “That means that they’ve added one more pollutant to the water.”

The disaster has proven to be prime political fodder for opponents of drilling such as Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., who has already called for an investigation into claims by the offshore drilling industry that drilling in the gulf is safe.

Meanwhile New Jersey Democratic Sens. Robert Menendez and Frank Lautenberg issued a joint statement calling into question the credibility of safety claims by the oil industry for its expanded shoreline drilling effort. Their letter, citing government figures, say that since 2006 there have been 509 fires on rigs in the gulf, resulting in at least two fatalities and 12 serious injuries — all prior to Deepwater Horizon.

According to the Houston Chronicle, only two of those fires led to financial penalties for the companies operating the rigs. Those totaled only $110,000.

“Big Oil has perpetuated a dangerous myth that coastline drilling is a completely safe endeavor, but accidents like this are a sober reminder just how far that is from the truth,” the two senators said.

However, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said that President Obama is still sticking to his plan to open up part of the eastern gulf and areas of the Atlantic seaboard to oil drilling.

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