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Politics of the oil slick: Jeff Atwater says told-ya-so on oil drilling

A letter to the Florida Senate from Senate President President (and state Chief Financial Officer candidate) Jeff Atwater:


Since the issue of offshore drilling was first raised last year, I have been committed to ensuring no decision to open state waters to drilling would be made without a thorough study of the implications.  The impact that a catastrophe, such as the Deepwater Horizon spill, could have on Florida was at the forefront of my mind.  Despite the many individuals who championed the fiscal benefits and decried possible negative impacts, I was resolute in the need for a comprehensive study. 


Florida is home to too many precious and unique ecosystems, world-renowned beaches, and an economy that is significantly based on tourism, to take the implications that surround offshore drilling lightly.


Thus, the Senate is actively monitoring the Deepwater Horizon spill.  As this catastrophe plays out in the gulf, I want you to be informed as to the most recent efforts and actions underway to contain the damage and preparations being considered for cleaning up any oil that may reach our shores.


Today, at 2 PM, DEP Secretary Mike Sole will be conducting a teleconference for members of the Legislature.....Florida’s State Emergency Response Team (SERT), with support from the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP), is the lead State agency responding to the Deepwater Horizon spill and is providing interested parties with updates on the situation.  


Currently, no heavy waves of crude oil are anticipated; however, preparations are being made to safeguard our state’s shoreline.  Any oil, regardless of how minimal, negatively affects our beautiful beaches, thus it is imperative that every precaution is taken.  DEP, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC), county governments, water management districts and several federal agencies are conducting pre-impact assessments, including sampling of water, fish, shellfish, and habitats along the Florida coastline and into the Gulf of Mexico.


On the federal level, the lead response entities are the U.S. Coast Guard, the Minerals Management Service, and BP.  SERT is participating in routine conference calls with the Unified Command in Mobile, Alabama.  The Unified Command has four staging areas in place and is ready to protect the sensitive shorelines of those states along the gulf.  


One of those staging areas is located in Pensacola.  DEP currently has staff in Mobile where they are working with the U.S. Coast Guard, NOAA, BP, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the impacted states.  


We have been assured that all available resources are being used in an attempt to shut off the oil discharge currently releasing up to 5,000 barrels of oil into the Gulf each day.


We will be monitoring the situation closely, staying in touch with Florida’s SERT.  A copy of their latest update is attached.  DEP has established a website to provide the most up to date information regarding the spill response:


Our Federal partners must be ready to commit the resources necessary to protect our great state.  I encourage each of you to get involved, be ready to assist Florida's shores, or lend a hand to our neighbors in Louisiana and Alabama.  For information on volunteer opportunities please visit,


There is much work to be done.  Florida must remain vigilant and ready to respond swiftly to whatever the coming days may bring. 


It is imperative that all marine life and our pristine beaches are protected, our local communities and small business owners receive assistance, and those responsible for this catastrophe held accountable.