Florida Republicans celebrated Earth Day by moving the state one step closer to lifting a ban on oil-drilling off the coast. Hear that, Galt Ocean Mile residents? How loudly you cheered when the governor came to your condo to tell you that another potential environmental hazard, the Calypso natural gas pipeline, was "gone." Dead. Done-for. What a relief.
Yet Florida Audubon lobbyist Eric Draper told me today that "the pipeline is not the major risk." No, the major risk is this bill, because a pipeline is less worrisome than a drill. "The drilling itself releases oil and gas," says Draper. That danger is heightened when you add the likelihood that the rigs would be jostled about in a major hurricane. Draper asks, "How would people feel after they woke up in the morning after a hurricane and there's an oil rig off the coast spurting oil? There's no way we know of right now to prevent this."
Oh, but what about Charlie the Pipe Slayer?
Gov. Charlie Crist said he was still reviewing the proposal but was ''intrigued'' by the potential to extract oil ``in a way that is safe, in a way that is clean and in a way that generates a lot of revenue for the state of Florida.''
"We're worried about the governor," says Draper, in the tone one uses to describe someone recently bit by a zombie. "He was once known as a man who was always dependable on environmental issues. But lately, he's been less dependable."