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Gulf drilling would mean paradise lost

Postcard perfect.

That’s how several Italian teenagers described our clear waters and white sandy beaches during a recent visit.

The kids are gone now, but their words linger.

Especially against the backdrop of yet another assault by Big Oil and its lackeys on our pristine shores.

On Monday, Sens. Mary Landrieu, D-La., and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, sponsored a bill to allow drilling 45 miles away.

In June, Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., attached an amendment to climate legislation to allow drilling 45 miles from here, 10 from the Panhandle.

And in April, the Florida Legislature considered a late bill to permit drilling as close as three miles.

The senate buried it.

Pray Capitol Hill’s two-pronged attack is defeated, too.

The Landrieu-Murkowski bill would give Florida a big cut of drilling revenue — Dorgan’s amendment pays the state zero — but that is fool’s gold.

If either becomes law, kiss our clear waters and white sandy beaches goodbye.

It’s a matter of time.

Statistics gathered by the Sierra Club from federal agencies show how Big Oil pollutes:

n A single exploratory well dumps 25,000 tons of toxic metals into the Gulf.

n A single production platform can have between 50 to 100 wells and can discharge 90,000 metric tons of drilling fluids, waste and metal cuttings.

n Routine drilling operations dump thousands of pounds of “drilling muds” — heavy metals like arsenic, cadmium, chromium and lead — into the Gulf. Bad for the water quality and marine life.

That’s during good weather.

Imagine a hurricane.

Despite Big Oil’s assertions about safety, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita present a different picture.

According to the Minerals Management Service, which regulates offshore drilling, 113 platforms were destroyed and 457 pipelines that brought oil to shore were damaged.

Nearly 9 million gallons of oil were spilled, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Louisiana officials made it seem like it was the cost of doing business.

If that happened here?

It would be paradise lost.

Mannix About Manatee, by local columnist Vin Mannix,is about people and issues in Manatee County. Please call Vin Mannix at 745-7055, write him at Bradenton Herald, P.O. Box 921, Bradenton, FL 34206 or e-mail him at vmannix@bradenton.com. Please include a phone number for verification.

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