Oil Drilling Debate Does Not Belong in Constitution

by | Apr 4, 2018

Most Americans agree the constitution is a sacred document. Similarly, the Florida Constitution is the guiding force for our state’s operations and changes should not be taken lightly.

The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) is a process unique to Florida. The CRC meets only once every 20 years to decide what – if any – changes should be made to our constitution. Thirty-Seven Commissioners are appointed by elected officials and serve in this capacity until various proposals are considered and passed, ultimately voted on by the public. This year’s commissioners have done a great job balancing the needs of various Floridians against the constitution’s true purpose. That is no easy feat, especially because some proposals, which may appear beneficial, do not fit the constitution’s role of providing the structure and scope of government.

Mark Alvarez, Vets4Energy

Proposal 91 is one such proposal. This bill would ban offshore drilling in Florida. Supporters of Proposal 91 say it will enhance citizens’ rights to a clean environment, even though increased natural gas and oil consumption actually lowers CO2 emissions and makes our air cleaner. However, Proposal 91 hinders Florida’s ability to meet residents’ energy needs while limiting access to economic benefits as well as our national security. It is important to note two-thirds of our state’s electricity is generated from natural gas. It is not feasible to ignore our growing needs for the resources offshore drilling helps safely provide.

The constitution is not easily changed. Once it has been amended, it is extremely difficult to make any revisions – especially considering the next CRC will not meet until 2037. Think about how quickly technology has transformed our state in the last two decades, and even in the last five years. This is especially true for the oil and natural gas industry. Oil drilling continues to become safer than ever before, and seismic testing is still the best proven and safe way to analyze what resources we have in the ocean. We have no idea what new technology will be created over the next 20 years. If the CRC passes and the public votes in favor of a constitutional ban on offshore drilling, Florida will be forced to sit on the sidelines and likely pay more for energy resources coming from other states and surrounding waters.

Offshore development and exploration is a highly-regulated and safe way to bring millions of dollars and jobs to our great state, and Floridians deserve those opportunities. If Proposal 91 passes, our state will forego the opportunity to add $2.6 billion to our economy over the next 20 years. Furthermore, offshore oil and natural gas production in the Eastern Gulf is projected to employ more than 56,000 people. How can we knowingly deprive hardworking Floridians from these opportunities, especially our veterans whose skill sets make them uniquely qualified to excel in STEM careers?

As a veteran, I am also deeply concerned this proposal hinders our ability to keep our state secure. A strong correlation exists between a nation’s national security and its energy security – our country is safer when we can meet our citizens’ energy needs with our domestic supply. It is important to expand offshore resources to help solidify our energy independence and keep the U.S.  more secure.

It is certainly important to be cautious when it comes to offshore drilling, and seismic testing allows scientists to pinpoint exactly where our energy supplies are located without posing any risk to military operations or marine life. It does not make sense to ban a process that helps the industry be even more safe when it comes to developing energy resources.

I would be remiss if I did not point to a recent poll, which found nearly half of Floridians would not support a constitutional ban on offshore drilling. Amendments need 60 percent of voter support to pass. I hope the CRC will leave Proposal 91 off the ballot and instead continue to use their role as Commissioners to listen to the voices of the Florida people.

Mark Alvarez is a retired U.S. Army veteran and member of Vets4Energy Florida

1 Comment

  1. Michael Stocker

    Interesting perspective, but the author’s assertion that “increased natural gas and oil consumption actually lowers CO2 emissions and makes our air cleaner” sets the tone for the rest of the argument. While admitting that CO2 and fossil-fueled air pollution is a problem, he doesn’t substantiate his case with anything but his opinion.

    Of course oil and gas drilling has become safer, but with over 15 terrestrial oil spills over 100 metric tons occurring over the last five years, “safe” is not how I would characterize the industry. (These were terrestrial spills, and the one relatively small terrestrial spill that hit the water – Refugio, CA. 2015 – 22,000 gallons, cost $100 million to clean up.)

    And then there is this little issue of “Climate Induced Sea Level Rise.” Should the sea level rise two to three feet in the next 20 – 30 years (as it is projected to do so), all of these 56,000 Floridians employed in the industry would have to move to Georgia to keep their feet dry.

    Not being a constitutional scholar, I don’t have any particular opinions about how the Constitutional Commission should do their job. But it’s pretty clear that the author should think his assertions through a bit in a longer time frame. Then it might make sense to keep the brakes on offshore oil until the next Florida Constitutional Convention twenty years from now.

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