Wednesday, April 25, 2018
Editorials

Editorial: Marco Rubio wrong to seek oil money for Florida

Sounds enticing on its face: Give Florida a slice of the revenue that other states along the Gulf of Mexico derive from offshore drilling. But this measure proposed by Sen. Marco Rubio is the same tired Trojan horse that the industry has floated for years to try to expand oil drilling nearer Florida's coast. It would be a dangerous tradeoff that puts short-term interests ahead of Florida's long-term economic and environmental health, and state leaders should reject it and work toward extending the drilling ban in the eastern gulf.

Rubio has filed legislation that would extend the ban on eastern gulf drilling to 2027, joining an effort already proposed by Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson and a bipartisan group in Congress. The Miami Republican's measure also would enable Florida to receive a share of revenue generated by gulf drilling. Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama share 37.5 percent of offshore revenue, but that has been capped at $500 million annually. Rubio said the move "would give Florida a new source of funding" in recognition of the risks that drilling poses to Florida.

It's hardly that innocent. By dangling money before the state, proponents are trying to weaken Florida's resolve on drilling. A congressional deal now bans drilling in federal waters within 235 miles of Tampa Bay and 125 miles of the Panhandle through 2022. But giving Florida an equity stake in drilling in the central and western gulf would undercut the state's credibility in calling for extended protections in federal waters to the east.

This is straight from an old playbook. A future Florida House speaker filed bills in 2009 and 2010 that would have allowed drilling in state waters, which extend about 10 miles into the gulf and 3 miles into the Atlantic Ocean. Though the bills stalled, President Barack Obama announced a sweeping plan to expand drilling in the eastern gulf in March 2010, only weeks before the BP oil disaster. That catastrophe was the only thing that sapped the momentum for new drilling by the federal and state governments. Weakening the protections in Florida have always been key for attacking the moratorium in federal waters.

"You get the camel's nose under the tent and suddenly, the camel is in the tent," said Nelson, who played a lead role, along with Florida's other then-senator, Republican Mel Martinez, in the 2006 deal that installed the moratorium.

Rubio suggested the money could help Florida with coastal restoration and flood control. That sounds good, but revenue sharing would still be at the will of the Congress, and there is no guarantee the federal government would spend the revenues on what was promised. As a presidential candidate in 2008, Obama pledged to direct these revenues to coastal restoration. He later backtracked and sought to end revenue sharing and to reallocate drilling royalties to conservation projects across the country. Florida easily could have nothing to show for this tradeoff but an environmental disaster in the making.

The energy industry would be the only winner in signaling to Washington that Florida is no longer a no-drill state. Florida should push instead to extend the ban on drilling in the eastern gulf beyond 2022. That would protect the state's economy, strengthen its natural resources and help to improve the safety of military training in the gulf. The allure of dollar signs is a shiny distraction, and Florida would regret taking the bait.

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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...
Updated: 13 minutes ago

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
Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

Editorial: New Cuba president is chance for new start

For all the symbolism, Raul Castro’s handoff of the Cuban presidency this week amounts to less than meets the eye even if his handpicked successor, the Communist Party functionary Miguel Diaz-Canel Bermudez, is the first person not named Castro to le...
Published: 04/20/18
Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

Editorial: When they visit Nature’s Classroom, kids are right where they belong

The Hillsborough school district planted a fruitful seed with the opening of Nature’s Classroom five decades ago on the cypress-lined banks of the Hillsborough River northeast of Tampa. • The lessons taught there to some 17,000 sixth graders each yea...
Published: 04/20/18

Editorial: Equality pays off on Southwest Flight 1380

The passengers of Southwest Flight 1380 can be thankful that, 33 years ago, the U.S. Navy took the lead on equal opportunity.Capt. Tammie Jo Shults was piloting the flight from New York to Dallas on Tuesday when an engine exploded, blowing out a wind...
Published: 04/19/18
Updated: 04/20/18