Special Reports

Buchanan, Castor plan bills in response to oil spill

BRADENTON — U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, plans to file legislation next week that would, among other things, call for structural changes to the federal Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore oil and gas drilling.

“Someone’s got to have clear oversight,” Buchanan said Friday.

Buchanan, who hoped his bill would attract bipartisan support, said, “We’re looking to make sure all inspections take place even if they get re-scheduled, in a certain period of time.”

“In BP’s case, a lot of them have been missed, and never re-scheduled. It’s a big problem. A lot of it will come out in the near future,” Buchanan said.

U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, also has legislation related to the oil spill in the hopper.

A bill she has filed, titled the Florida Coastal Protection Act, would prohibit oil drilling, leasing, pre-leasing and any related activities off the Gulf Coast and the Straits of Florida, according to a news release issued by her office.

The bill would ban oil drilling and leasing activities permanently. The current buffer 235 miles off of Tampa Bay is effective only through 2022, it said.

“The Deepwater Horizon oil disaster has confirmed my worst fears about the potential ramifications of oil drilling off of Florida’s coast,” Castor said in the press release. “We must act now to protect Florida’s economy and environment. The Deepwater Horizon disaster is having a devastating impact on Florida and other Gulf Coast states.”

Buchanan plans a news conference Monday at Sarasota’s Lido Key public beach to outline details of his bill.

Buchanan said he met Thursday with U.S. Coast Guard Admiral Thad W. Allen, the official in charge of the federal response to the oil spill disaster.

Buchanan said he was shocked at the amount of oil emitted from the damaged well.

“The hard reality of it is, and has been for awhile, 2.5 million gallons a day, or 60,000 barrels a day,” Buchanan said.

The flow rate is important because “you’ve got to estimate the flow, so you can get the relief effort at the same magnitude,” he said.

Tuesday, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar named former Justice Department Inspector General Michael R. Bromwich to lead reforms as the federal Minerals Management Service is restructured.

Sara Kennedy, Herald reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7031.