Special Reports

Local environmental group wants to prevent future drilling

SARASOTA — Although frustrated with the continued delay in stopping the gushing oil from the Deep Horizon well in the Gulf of Mexico, the board of a local environmental group urged its members to be proactive.

ManaSoto-88 Chairman Glenn Compton told the group of activists Wednesday that there has not been any good news about the April 21 explosion at the deep-water oil rig that has sent millions of gallons of crude oil into the gulf.

“But there is an opportunity to make comments on five-year Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Program that President Obama proposed only weeks before the environmental disaster.

The U.S. Minerals Management Services, a Department of the Interior agency charged with regulating off-shore oil drilling, was taking comments on the plan as part of the Environmental Impact Statement process.

“I thought everything (the five-year plan) was going to be put on hold,” Compton said, “but it doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.”

He encouraged the membership to go to the website, www.ocs5yeareis.anl.gov, and post comments on how they feel about oil drilling off Florida’s shoreline.

While discussing the issue, several of those in attendance said because there has always been a ban on drilling in Florida many people never took the time to make comments on wells off the shores of other Gulf Coast states.

Compton said the ManaSota-88 website, www.manasota88.org, will have examples as suggestions for the Mineral Management Services comment process.

The deadline for comments is June 30 and he said the organizations position should be for the “no action” alternative.

Danny Bilyeu, a field representative for U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, said the congressman was very concerned about the massive oil spill.

“He’s been an opponent of oil drilling off the Florida coast since day one,” Bilyeu said.

He said if the group or any individual has any requests for Buchanan they should write him a letter.

ManaSota-88 board member Barbara Hines asked what the congressman and the rest of the Florida Congressional delegation doing to make sure there would be no drilling near state’s shores.

Bilyeu said there was no legislation in the works, but his staff was monitoring the situation in Washington, D.C., for him to take action at the appropriate time.

Carl Mario Nudi, Herald staff writer, can be reached at 745-7027