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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

Military brass: Gulf drilling won't harm training



In an attempt to knock down one of the most powerful arguments against oil drilling off Florida's coasts, a coalition of military brass and Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-ND, released a report today saying that a new look at the issue shows there's less impact than previously believed.

The report by Securing American's Future Energy, a non-profit pro-drilling organization, concluded: there aren't as many military missions occurring in areas where drilling has been prohibited, that the type of potential encroachment from oil and gas drilling on military operations is minimal, and that oil drilling and military operations are able to co-exist.

"Even with additional training missions in that area, the impact of oil and gas exploration is not going to be significant and it should not decrease the readiness military units get in that area,'' said Col. Martin Sullivan, a retired commander in the U.S. Marine Corps, who produced the report for Commonwealth Consultaing Corp.

Sullivan dismissed the testimony of officials from Eglin Air Force base who spoke to a state House committee last week, warning that the legislature's plan to bring oil drilling as close as three miles off Florida's coast would prove to be an obstacle to flight testing and missle exercises.The report did not consider the impact on military operations of oil and gas drilling within 10 miles in, he said.

"What you have to consider is any squadron commander and any ship captain would be a little bit upset...with constrains on his training or testing,'' Sullivan said, noting they are not likely to support anything that would "creat additional problems for them. But, in essence, both the Air Force and Navy say there's less oeprations in the Gulf than there were in the past.''

-- Mary Ellen Klas

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 1:15pm]


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