In 1947, the state of Florida issued a long-term oil and gas lease for state waters in the Gulf, stretching from Apalachicola Bay in the north to Naples in the south. The lease, which now belongs to Coastal Petroleum, was renegotiated in 1975 to leave Coastal with partial rights from 0–7.4 miles from the shore, and full rights to state waters from 7.4–10.4 miles from the shore. Florida has since banned offshore drilling in state waters, and has a long-running legal dispute with Coastal over Coastal’s efforts to drill the offshore lease.
Florida banned drilling in state waters in 1992, and has also opposed additional drilling in federal waters off Florida. However, in April 2009 three committees of the Florida House of Representatives approved a bill that would allow offshore drilling in state waters more than 3 miles from shore, affecting the Gulf coast of the state, where state waters extend out to 10.5 statute miles from shore. The bill passed the Florida House in April 2009, but died soon after in the Florida Senate. Though opposition to offshore oil development runs high in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, this remains a long-term threat.
The threat of offshore oil development will be back. It’s just a matter of when. Suncoast Waterkeeper will oppose offshore drilling unequivocally.