Make us your home page

Oil slick has candidates sliding away from offshore drilling

TALLAHASSEE — The political rallying cry is no longer drill, baby, drill. It's spill, baby, spill.

Faster than oil slicks spreading on water, Florida's top politicians have spent the past few days jockeying for media attention, performing flyovers of the spill in the Gulf of Mexico and decrying the impact of the calamity on the Sunshine State.

Gov. Charlie Crist, who is running for the U.S. Senate as an independent, severed all ties to his previous statements extolling the virtues of oil drilling as a way to lower gas prices as long as it was done cleanly and safely. On Monday, he declared that any talk of drilling off Florida's coast should "cease and desist."

Republican Attorney General Bill McCollum, running for governor, traveled to Mobile, Ala., on Sunday to meet with other attorneys general to discuss legal steps necessary to lay blame for the massive oil leak.

And Democratic Chief Financial Officer Alex Sink, also running for governor, headed to Pensacola on Monday for a briefing on the oil spill by emergency operations officials and recommendations of ways the state can better respond.

"Those proposals need to be totally off the table forevermore," Sink said of new drilling plans.

She called on the federal government to push BP PLC to create an immediate cash fund for local governments and small businesses and urged businesses to prepare their records to submit damage claims.

All three politicians held separate news conferences before cameras at the state's Emergency Operations Center in Tallahassee to deplore the threat to Florida's tourism industry.

"I've always said as long as it was far enough, clean enough and safe enough that it would be something that I'd be willing to look at," Crist said. "This is not far enough, this is not safe enough, and it sure as heck is not clean enough. I mean, it's not good enough — period. So given that, I think all bets are off."

That's a far cry from a 2008 statement he made while campaigning to be the Republican running mate for presidential candidate John McCain. Then, Crist said he'd support oil drilling if it could be done safely and "if that could, in fact, help us to lower the price of gas at the pump, then we need to study it."

At the federal level, too, politicians jumped into the issue.

U.S. Sen. George LeMieux, who has disagreed with the governor's support of oil drilling, joined the U.S. Coast Guard for briefings in Mobile and then flew over the spill.

"I cannot overstate the need for urgency and priority in capping the well," he said.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, said she was disappointed she didn't get the entire Florida congressional delegation to sign a letter to President Barack Obama opposing oil drilling in the wake of the crisis.

In Tallahassee, Democratic candidate for agriculture commissioner Scott Maddox used the issue to take aim at his opponent, Republican U.S. Rep. Adam Putnam.

"I think it's astounding that four days after the explosion, Adam Putnam was reaffirming his position in favor of offshore and near-shore oil drilling," Maddox said, asking all candidates for the Florida Cabinet to sign a pledge to oppose oil drilling off the coast.

Putnam, who had previously said he was "generally supportive of opening those areas'' to drilling, responded by saying he is "deeply concerned about the economic and ecological damage'' and accused Maddox of "complete ignorance of the issues in this race."

The political statements are bittersweet, environmentalists say.

"Everything the (environmental) advocates warned about is happening," said Susan Glickman of the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy.

She hopes the disaster brings an end to a legislative proposal to allow oil drilling between 3 and 10 miles off Florida's coasts and focuses new attention on efforts to develop alternative fuels.

"The legislators who stood in the way of moving to clean renewable energy are going to have something to answer for," she said. "It's no longer an abstract conversation and now we're seeing the results."

Crist, who this year dropped his push for a requirement that state utility companies be required to use a percentage of renewable energy, said the oil spill should serve as a lesson.

"This is the resurrection of the clean energy argument without a doubt in my mind," Crist told reporters Monday. "You've got to have solar. We've got to move more rapidly to develop wind, nuclear as well."

Times/Herald staff writers Marc Caputo, Lee Logan, Cristina Silva and Lesley Clark contributed to this report. Mary Ellen Klas can be reached at

Oil slick has candidates sliding away from offshore drilling 05/03/10 [Last modified: Monday, May 3, 2010 10:37pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and estranged wife Carole put Beach Drive condo on the market

    Real Estate

    ST. PETERSBURG — U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their Beach Drive condo on the market for $1.5 million.

    Former Florida Gov. and current U.S. Rep. Charlie Crist and his estranged wife, Carole, have put their condo in downtown St. Petersburg on the market for $1.5 million. [Courtesy of Rhonda Sanderford]
  2. First WannaCry, now cyberattack Petya spreads from Russia to Britain


    Computer systems from Russia to Britain were victims of an international cyberattack Tuesday in a hack that bore similarities to a recent one that crippled tens of thousands of machines worldwide.

    A computer screen cyberattack warning notice reportedly holding computer files to ransom, as part of a massive international cyberattack, at an office in Kiev, Ukraine, on Tuesday.  A new and highly virulent outbreak of malicious data-scrambling software appears to be causing mass disruption across Europe.
[Oleg Reshetnyak via AP]
  3. Higher Social Security payouts help Florida post a big jump in personal income

    Personal Finance

    Personal income grew 1.3 percent in Florida in the first quarter of this year, a four-way tie among all states for second-fastest growth behind Idaho.

  4. Trigaux: Task now is for Water Street Tampa to build an identity


    Adios, VinikVille! Hello Water Street Tampa.

    An aerial rendering of the $3 billion redevelopment project that Jeff Vinik and Strategic Property Partners plan on 50-plus acres around Amalie Arena.
[Rendering courtesy of Strategic Property Partners]
  5. Unlicensed contractor accused of faking death triggers policy change at Pinellas licensing board

    Local Government

    The unlicensed contractor accused of faking his death to avoid angry homeowners has triggered an immediate change in policy at the Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board.

    Last year Glenn and Judith Holland said they paid a contractor thousands of dollars to renovate their future retirement home in Seminole. But when they tried to move in on Dec. 14, they said the home was in shambles and uninhabitable. They sent a text message to contractor Marc Anthony Perez at 12:36 p.m. looking for answers. Fourteen minutes later, they got back this text: "This is Marc's daughter, dad passed away on the 7th of December in a car accident. Sorry." Turns out Perez was still alive. Now the Hollands are suing him in Pinellas-Pasco circuit court. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]