Report: Oil drilling would ruin tourism in Florida


TAMPA – A new report says oil drilling is a half-trillion dollar threat to Florida’s coastline and economy, and U.S. Senator Bill Nelson agrees.

He says the stakes are high, and the time to act is now.

It’s a report that puts the impact of tourism in dollars and cents. It says it could hurt the tourism industry, which accounts for nearly 80 percent of Florida’s wages.

“People are not going to want to go to the beach in a scene like this,” says hotel owner Susan Wilkerson, recalling a tanker spill in Tampa Bay in 1983 that left tar balls washing ashore for years.

She says drilling off the coast is a risk Florida can’t afford.

“Our guests have a lot of alternatives, so when somebody in France reads there was an oil spill in Miami, trust me, they just don’t go to Miami. They don’t go to Florida,” Wilkerson said.

Wednesday, the Sierra Club released a new report titled “Don’t Rig our Coastline.”

“We have an unprecedented threat today in Washington and in Tallahassee by those who would throw away all those things that make Florida a special place,” said Phil Compton with the Sierra Club.

An energy bill before the U.S. Senate would allow oil and gas drilling as close as ten miles off the coast.

Senator Bill Nelson says that’s not just a threat to tourism, but to national security: the eastern gulf is a major military test range:

“We’re not going to let people diminish our military preparedness,” Nelson said.

As conservationists thanked the senator for his staunch opposition to drilling, they also know he’s got his work cut out for him.

“We will kill this legislation, if I have to filibuster, I will, for the sake of national security,” Nelson said.

The drilling provision is part of a climate and energy bill that goes to the senate for a vote, possibly as early as this fall. Senator Nelson says the pro-drilling oil lobby is also ramping up, to make it a top issue for Florida legislators when they reconvene next year.