Make us your home page

Open to more drilling — with safeguards — Rick Scott tours the oil-damaged coast

DESTIN — Standing in front of his idle charter boat, Capt. Scott Robson gave GOP hopeful Rick Scott a grim assessment of the oil ravaged economy in Florida's Panhandle.

"You look at all these boats on July 26," he said pointing down the dock to rows of leisure fishing boats at the HarborWalk Marina. "In the past everybody would be out fishing. This is prime (time)."

As they spoke, Scott omitted the fact he continues to leave the door open for offshore oil drilling — despite a shift in public opinion that prompted top Republican state lawmakers to abandon the idea.

After Scott had gone to his bus, a reporter told Robson of Scott's position, and the fisherman looked surprised.

"Oohh, I don't know with what's going on nowadays," he said. "At a time, I think we all did kind of support it. … I think everybody is a little 'wooohh, oops, wooohh, I don't know.' "

It made for an awkward moment as Scott completed the final segment of his six-day statewide bus tour.

"My belief is that we have to continue to look at offshore drilling but we've got to do it safely," he told a business roundtable in Panama City. "I think as a country and a state we've got to become as energy independent as we can."

Later, in an interview aboard his campaign bus, Scott clarified that it won't happen in the "foreseeable future."

"We are not going to drill now," he said. "It's not safe. It doesn't make any sense."

State law currently forbids drilling within 10 miles of the coast but state lawmakers have tried numerous times in recent years to lift the ban.

Scott said he supports President Barack Obama's moratorium on drilling in the Gulf until new safety measures are developed. But he said he opposes a constitutional ban on drilling in state waters. "Never is a long time," he said. "If we figure out some day that it's safe I think we ought to look at it."

Scott said he supports the development of alternative energy, but gave no details about what he would do as governor to boost the industry.

Asked if he believes in global warming, Scott said no. "I have not been convinced," he said.

Asked what it would take to persuade him, "Something more convincing than what I've read," said Scott. Asked what car he has, he said he drives a Lincoln MKS hybrid.

As he spoke, the bus drove west along U.S. 98, the main coastal thoroughfare for the white sand beaches that make this area a major tourist destination. But with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, crowds are smaller, businesses are going closing and the locals are hurting.

"It's been an emotional black eye over the Panhandle," said Republican state Rep. Jimmy Patronis, who attended a Scott event and owns a beachside restaurant in Panama City.

The oil issue is one of the most defining in the GOP primary for governor. Scott's rival Bill McCollum, the state's attorney general, opposes near-shore drilling.

In April, McCollum said as governor any effort to change state law to allow drilling would "face a veto on my desk."

"I know it's a revenue producer, but that's not a good enough reason," he said.

McCollum said he does not support Obama's moratorium. But his stance on a constitution ban is less clear. His campaign said he opposes the tougher prohibition, but McCollum said a week earlier he would have voted for it.

His campaign attacked Scott by suggesting he supports offshore drilling claiming he did so because it helps his wallet. Scott owns $20 million worth of stock in Drives LLC, a company certified by the American Petroleum Institute for manufacturing chains and augers used in oil production and other industries.

Scott took a direct swipe at McCollum Monday, saying he opposed the $75 million cap on liability for oil spills approved by Congress in 1990. McCollum, then a Central Florida congressman, voted for the bill.

"When companies don't have a downside risk it creates an incentive to take a risk that you wouldn't normally take," he said.

By and large, Scott avoided the topic of the oil spill until confronted with the stark situation on the Destin docks.

The day before, he took a boat tour with two charter fishermen to look at the oyster beds in Apalachicola Bay, where the oil spill was on the mind of fisherman Bruce Rotella, a pony-tailed sun-wrinkled man who called it a "monster."

But in the 20-minute boat ride, Scott didn't ask about oil once.

Open to more drilling — with safeguards — Rick Scott tours the oil-damaged coast 07/26/10 [Last modified: Monday, July 26, 2010 8:59pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. 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]
  2. 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.

  3. 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]
  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]