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Robert Trigaux

Florida's $200K oil-gas drilling study, now ridiculed amid BP disaster, still worth a read

BPDeepwaterHorizonrigAPWake up and good morning. An April "rush job" study finding minimal risks in drilling off Florida's coasts, commissioned by incoming Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon, R-Winter Park, for $200,000 in taxpayer money, is now the subject of broad contempt in the wake of the massive and so far unstoppable BP gulf oil spill. (AP photo: BP's Deepwater Horizon rig before it sank into the Gulf of Mexico.)

The study was the topic of a WUSF segment Monday, and was subsequently reported up by publications ranging from the St. Petersburg Times and Creative Loafing to the Orlando Sentinel and, no surprise here, the liberal Daily Kos blog

The 177-page study is called Florida Gulf Coast Oil and Gas Risk Assessment, a meaty if perhaps drill-baby-drill-leaning document produced by a unit of a British firm called The Willis Group. The study's key conclusion, which of course sounds laughable now -- especially with reports now saying oil is less than seven miles from Pensacola may hit the Panhandle this week -- is this:

"Oil spills from offshore exploration, development, production and the transportation associated with these activities are unlikely to present a major risk to Florida."

Or this conclusion:

"A 1,000 barrel spill is a 1 in 100 year event in state waters, assuming pipelines are the main transportation option; even a spill that size would likely be intercepted through emergency response prior to reaching Florida’s shoreline."

Or even this conclusion:

"We view the risks associated with oil and gas drilling in Florida State waters as serious but manageable, as incremental to the forces of nature Florida faces each year, and small relative to risks from Florida’s existing industrial activity."

All that said, I encourage anyone who wants a better understanding of the pros and cons of gas and oil drilling in Florida state waters (setting aside for now the BP spill disaster) to give this study a read. This document was, after all, produced prior to the BP fiasco which was outside the box of gulf oil experience. Now we know better, right?

For example. the study suggests more analysis be given to the potential impact on Florida's "brand" and reputation as a tourist destination, a place for businesses to relocate and as a place to live if drilling were to occur in state waters. States the study:

"While exploratory and developmental drilling rigs would be temporary structures, they would likely create new associations and perceptions for coastal communities and businesses. Drilling may also trigger new perceptions of Florida among people and businesses considering relocation.Further, real estate prices may be affected, particularly in areas where exploratory drilling and development is taking place... 

"The benefits of allowing exploration, development, production and transportation of oil and gas within Florida’s Gulf Coast State waters may be offset by many factors, including their potential effect on Florida’s ‘brand’ and reputation. This is an area where we would strongly recommend further consideration."

Here is the complete study.

-- Robert Trigaux, Times Business Columnist 

[Last modified: Wednesday, July 28, 2010 11:59am]

    

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