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Bill banning offshore drilling has Florida conservationists hopeful change is coming

'We’re beginning to see this tipping point'
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Posted at 6:45 PM, Sep 12, 2019
and last updated 2019-09-12 18:45:01-04

PANACEA, Fla. -- After decades of sea animal rehabilitation and conservation work, Jack Rudloe felt America might finally be listening to environmental concerns over offshore drilling.

“It’s beginning to show the resolve of the people,” said Rudloe, who operates the Gulf Specimen Marine Laboratories in Panacea.

Rudloe, who helped with gulf restoration following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, had found renewed optimism after the Democrat-controlled U.S. House passed a bill permanently blocking offshore oil drilling in the eastern portions of the Gulf of Mexico, near Florida’s coast. Lawmakers approving the measure 248-180, Wednesday night.

“That vote from the House of Representatives is a very good sign we’re beginning to see this tipping point,” Rudloe said. “It’s going to start eventually taking off like coal rolling down the chute.”

Though a majority of Republicans rejected the measure, worrying it would hurt the nation’s energy supply, every Florida representative, except Ted Yoho, supported the bill.

GOP Florida Congressman Francis Rooney spearheaded the measure. He felt new rigs were a threat to wildlife, tourism and military readiness in an area used for testing.

“Offshore drilling off the coast of Florida would create an industrial coastline less appealing to visitors, hinder our military readiness, and adversely affect our environment,” the 19th District Congressman said in a statement. “I want to ensure that all areas east of the Military Mission Line in the Gulf of Mexico are permanently protected from offshore drilling, so these negative consequences do not transpire.”

Rooney remained hopeful Florida’s bipartisan support in the House would now motivate GOP lawmakers like Sen. Marco Rubio and Sen. Rick Scott to push for more of the same in the Republican-controlled Senate, the bill’s next stop.

It’ll be an uphill battle there. Many have wondered if Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell will even allow the legislation to make it to debate.

Sen. Rubio already has a bill in the Senate that would ban offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. The big difference— it would last only through 2027. Sen. Rick Scott announced support for the legislation, earlier this week.