U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan today called on President Barack Obama to take "swift and strong action with regard to the proposed Cuban deepwater oil drilling platform only 50 miles from the Florida Keys."
Buchanan cited reporting in the Bradenton Herald this week that Cuba may be poised to begin offshore drilling for oil and gas as soon as next year.
The report came from some of those attending a tri-national conference on marine issues at Mote Marine in Sarasota.
"They will begin drilling, I think, within the next year,” said Wayne Smith, who served in the foreign service in Cuba during the Carter and Reagan administrations, and now works for the Center for International Policy in Washington, D.C. He is also an adjunct professor at Johns Hopkins University.
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“It’s good for Cuba,” Smith added during an interview at a break in the conference at Mote Marine Laboratory. “Let’s hope the Cubans are more careful about their drilling practices than we were.”
In his letter dated Oct. 1, Buchanan wrote: "As we have leamed from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, an oil spill can devastate a regional economy and impose serious long-term environmental damage to sensitive, unique natural resources.
"In the event of another accidental oil gusher from this Cuban well, experts predict the oil would likely becarried up Florida's Atlantic Coast. This would deal a potentially devastating blow to Florida's tourismindustry, which is still reeling from the effects ofthe Deepwater Horizon spill. According to someestimates, oil could make landfall in Florida in as little as three days."