Thursday, April 26, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Close door to drilling off Florida's coast

The U.S. Interior Department has produced a questionable new study that could reopen a door to oil and gas exploration off the Atlantic Coast that should remain slammed shut. By proposing environmental safeguards as a prelude to authorizing undersea testing, the agency gives hope to those who want to forget the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, shift the focus from cleaner energies and resume the pursuit of dirtier fuels. There is no reason to reignite a debate over oil drilling off Florida's east coast.

The department recently announced it has completed a long-awaited assessment of how to protect marine life from the impact of seismic surveys. These blasts from underwater air guns emit sound waves over long durations and large areas that help map energy deposits below the ocean floor. Some conservation groups object, saying the practice could kill or injure huge numbers of whales, dolphins and other marine life. In its report, the department recommends a number of ways to mitigate the damage, from restricting the work from whale and sea turtle routes to requiring more passive forms of undersea testing.

Agency officials point out the study does not automatically authorize undersea surveys. That involves a separate process that is not expected to produce a permit before the end of the year. Actual drilling would not begin until at least an oil production ban in the Atlantic expires in 2017. Still, the report clears the way for the Interior Department to start the clock on drilling by permitting marine mining firms to explore tens of thousands of miles of open water from Delaware to Cape Canaveral. Already, nine companies have applied for the seismic survey rights, with six companies looking to operate in federal waters within miles of the Florida coast.

The department, in its defense, complied with an order from Congress in conducting the study. But much has changed since this effort began in earnest in April 2010, only two weeks before the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 and releasing 206 million gallons of oil. Domestic energy production is increasing, and supplies of cheaper natural gas are making the U.S. economy more energy efficient. The latest federal estimates show that increased supplies of U.S. crude through 2040 will result mainly from higher onshore production.

There's no economic case for opening new areas to offshore drilling — especially since the industry sits idle on more than 29 million acres of active leases. The nation has come a long way in several years toward addressing its supply needs through cleaner energy and efficiency projects that are far safer and more sustainable than offshore drilling. Florida's congressional delegation should prevent the department's study from being used to validate a return to the pre-Deepwater Horizon days. And the Obama administration needs to respect states like Florida that have worked hard to flourish without jeopardizing their coasts.

Comments

Editorial: It’s up to Florida’s voters to restore felons’ civil rights now

The disappointing ruling Wednesday by a federal appeals court should erase any doubt that the decision on restoring voting rights for felons rests solely on the conscience of Florida voters. A tortured ruling by the minimum majority of a three-judge ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

Editorial: St. Petersburg’s waste-to-energy to wastefulness project

A St. Petersburg waste-to-energy plant now under construction has been billed for years as an environmentally friendly money saver. Now it looks more like a boondoggle, with the cost and mission changing on the fly. It’s yet another example of a city...
Published: 04/25/18
Updated: 04/26/18

‘Happy hour’ tax cuts may result in hangovers

Evidence is mounting that the $1.5 trillion tax-cut package enacted in December by congressional Republicans and President Donald Trump was a bad idea, not only for the long-run health of the economy but for the short-term political prospects of the ...
Published: 04/25/18
Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Editorial: As USFSP consolidation task force meets, openness and collaboration are key

Writing a new law that phases out separate accreditation for the University of South Florida St. Petersburg and folds it back into the major research university was the easy part. The hard work starts today when a new consolidation task force holds i...
Published: 04/23/18
Updated: 04/25/18

Correction

CorrectionCircuit Judge John Stargel of Lakeland is a member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission who voted against a proposed amendment that would have stopped write-in candidates from closing primary elections. An editorial Saturday inco...
Published: 04/23/18
Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Editorial: Pruitt sets new low for ethics at EPA

Not too many people took then-candidate Donald Trump seriously when he famously campaigned to "drain the swamp" as president. But that shouldn’t give this administration a free pass to excuse the behavior of Scott Pruitt, the administrator of the Env...
Published: 04/22/18
Updated: 04/23/18
Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Editorial: Allegiant Air still has safety issues

Allegiant Air’s safety record remains troubling, and the Federal Aviation Administration’s reluctance to talk about it is no more encouraging. Those are the key takeaways from a 60 Minutes report on the low-cost carrier’s high rate of mid-flight brea...
Published: 04/21/18

Editorial: Women’s work undervalued in bay area

Even a strong economy and low unemployment cannot overcome the persistent pay gap affecting full-time working women in Florida. A new report shows women in Florida earned 12.5 percent less on average than their male counterparts, and the disparities ...
Published: 04/21/18
Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Editorial: Florida’s death penalty fading away on its own

Florida lawmakers may never take the death penalty off the books, but stronger forces are steadily eroding this inhumane, outdated tool of injustice. Court rulings, subsequent changes to law and waning public support have significantly suppressed the...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/24/18

Editorial: A missed chance for open primary elections

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission did a lot of things wrong this week by combining unrelated or unpalatable provisions into single amendments that will appear on the November ballot. It also wasted an opportunity to do one thing right. The...
Published: 04/20/18
Updated: 04/23/18