Pinellas tourism guru to Hill: Don't drill
D.T. Minich, executive director of the St. Petersburg-Clearwater Area Convention & Visitors Bureau, told a House panel at the U.S. Capitol today that drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is not worth the risk to the environment and the area's economy.
Minich told the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee about a small spill in 1993 that occurred when two barges and a freighter collided just off the mouth of Tampa Bay, fouling beaches from St. Pete Beach to Redington Shores. Mats of tar also formed around sensitive mangrove islands as mud mixed with the oil, coating mangrove roots, oyster beds and mud flats.
"And that's just one spill," Minich said, according to his written testimony, which also noted that government officials expect small spills surrounding any offshore drilling.
Wednesday's was the first of three fact-finding hearings about offshore drilling the committee is holding this month as the Congress decides how to proceed after lifting the long-standing moratorium on oil and gas exploration last year.
President George Bush also lifted the executive moratorium on drilling last year, and the Obama administration has embarked on a review of current policy and a tally of the nation's offshore energy reserves.
Wednesday's hearing highlighted the concerns of tourism and environmental advocates. The committee will hear state government leaders on Feb. 24 and representatives from the oil and gas industry on Feb. 25.