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Hernando commissioners to weigh dueling resolutions on offshore drilling

Do oil rigs off the coast of Hernando County sound like a good idea?

That depends on whom you ask.

Hernando County commissioners plan to introduce two nonbinding resolutions at Tuesday's meeting — one for and the other against a plan to open Florida's coast for drilling.

Commissioner Dave Russell, a Republican, said he plans to introduce a resolution pushing for drilling off Florida's west coast.

GOP leaders from President Bush and presumptive nominee John McCain to Gov. Charlie Crist and Rep. Ginny Brown-Waite have called for a lift of a federal offshore-drilling ban.

Russell said he's long supported drilling offshore, dating back to when he served in the Florida Legislature. He said he would support measures to allow drilling 50 miles or farther from Florida's coastline.

"It should be up to the experts where to find oil, not the politicians," Russell said.

Russell's Democratic colleague, commission Chairman Chris Kingsley, said he is poised to introduce his own resolution that opposes offshore drilling.

Commissioner Diane Rowden, also a Democrat, said any plan to drill for more oil is counterproductive.

"Our solution to the problem isn't to go out and find more fossil fuels," Rowden said. "Our solution is to use less."

Rowden said the country's current oil crisis could have been avoided had the government sought alternative energy sources during the oil crisis of the 1970s.

Kingsley said he will likely introduce the resolution during his allotted time during Tuesday's meeting.

"It's a relatively timely issue," he said.

But Commissioner Rose Rocco, a Democrat, is willing to wait.

She said she is not ready to support either resolution, though she's against offshore drilling.

"I don't think we should support offshore drilling until it's the last option we have," Rocco said.

She doesn't think it's wise to rush any decision, however, adding that she would like to take some time and do her homework.

Parks and recreation director Pat Fagan, who oversees two waterfront parks, said any decision must be made after careful thought.

Tourism drives Florida's economy, and he said any damage to the state's beaches or mangroves would hurt the industry.

Michael Sanserino can be reached at msanserino@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1430.

Hernando commissioners to weigh dueling resolutions on offshore drilling 06/22/08 [Last modified: Monday, June 23, 2008 11:10am]
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