Special Reports

Many Manatee officials cheer drilling decision

MANATEE -- The White House’s announcement that it will ban oil drilling for at least seven years in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts generally drew good reviews locally, with predictable exceptions.

Those who thought it a good idea included Charlie Hunsicker, director of the Manatee County Department of Natural Resources; environmental leader Glenn Compton, and Republican U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan,

Opposed was Don Baldauf, affiliated with the Bradenton pro-oil website, www.floridaoil.org.

Also opposed was the American Petroleum Institute, to which BP, operator of the well that caused the oil spill, referred a reporter who called for comment. The Washington, D.C. institute’s president warned the administration’s decision could result in the loss of tens of thousands of American jobs.

Hunsicker supported the administration’s position.

“The decision coming out of Washington today affirms the necessity for a thorough review of safe drilling practices, monitoring, and spill control emergency measures that for decades had not kept up with the complexities of deep ocean exploration and production,” said Hunsicker.

“Hopefully during this temporary moratorium, oil companies will work with the government to improve and have at the ready such measures,” he added.

Compton, representing the non-profit environmental group ManaSota-88, Inc., said, “It’s unfortunate it took a major oil spill for policy makers to realize the danger of offshore drilling now.”

“We also learned that we need to pay attention to all oil drilling in the gulf, not just what’s immediately adjacent to our shores,” Compton said.

Buchanan, a congressman from Sarasota, commended President Obama.

“As you know, I have consistently opposed offshore drilling in the Gulf of Mexico because Florida’s unique environment must be protected, and our economy relies heavily on tourism,” Buchanan said. “We learned this painful lesson from the tragic BP oil spill, whose effects are still being felt in southwest Florida, even though no oil ever washed up on our shores.”

Baldauf, who ran against Buchanan last month in a race for a congressional seat, contended that to protect the tourism industry, businesses should try what he called a “No Oil on the Beach Guarantee.”

“If there is an oil spill, and you have a hotel reservation, and oil comes up on the beach, the oil company pays you for your hotel, your air fare, and your rental car, and you continue with your vacation, enjoy all the (other) amenities the area has to offer,” said Baldauf.

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