In response to Department of the Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke’s announcement that the federal government will not open Florida waters to offshore oil drilling, the Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors released the following statement.
Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce Applauds Department of Interior Decision on Drilling in Eastern Gulf of Mexico, Calls for Permanent Moratorium
PENSACOLA, Fla.-January 18, 2018-The Greater Pensacola Chamber of Commerce applauds the announcement by United States Secretary of Interior Ryan Zinke that the Eastern Gulf of Mexico will not be included in the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management’s (BOEM) Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program and the moratorium that was set to expire in June 2022 will be extended. Not extending this moratorium would dramatically impact two of our major industries here in Northwest Florida, tourism and the military.
We would also like to thank Governor Rick Scott and Congressman Matt Gaetz for acting quickly once the Draft Proposed Program was released last week. Their decisive leadership spurred the federal government to remove our waters from the list of potential areas for oil and gas drilling.
There should be no need to remind our residents of the catastrophic impact the Deepwater Horizon oil spill had on Northwest Florida’s tourism industry. The spill, and subsequent cleanup, were unwelcome visitors to our beaches from three states away. While the recovery from the spill is largely complete, images of large oil patches and cleanup workers in haz-mat suits on our beaches are still fresh in our citizens’ collective minds.
Tourism is an almost $800 million a year industry in Escambia County and we annually welcome over two million visitors to enjoy our world-renowned beaches and vibrant downtown. The prospect of oil rigs and machinery within miles of our beaches or the possibility of a near-shore oil spill would have a substantial negative impact on our local tourism industry.
Northwest Florida’s largest employer is the Department of Defense and the economic impact of the military is $7.6 billion a year in Escambia County. One of America’s most important military testing and training facilities is the Gulf Test Range, with 120,000 square miles of overwater airspace, which includes the Florida Panhandle. It is a critical and unique space for our military to train in the use of current and next-generation military technology. In 2006, the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act halted oil and gas exploration east of the Military Mission Line, the “outer boundary,” so to speak, of the Gulf Test Range. Any oil or gas drilling near or within the Military Mission Line and the Gulf Test Range will undermine our military readiness and our national defense and could devastate our economy.
We welcome Secretary Zinke’s announcement as an important first step, but we would further call on the federal government to enact a permanent ban on oil and gas drilling in the Eastern Gulf of Mexico. Our future economy depends on it.