Gov. Rick Scott wants Floridians to be "cautious" about expanding oil drilling in the Everglades or anywhere else in or near the state.
But he neither endorsed nor condemned such efforts.
In a 10-minute speech before nearly 300 at the Economic Club of Florida on Tuesday, Scott continued his push to create jobs by reducing government regulations on businesses and to expand school choice for parents.
Answering a club members question regarding GOP presidential contender Michele Bachmanns recent call for additional oil drilling in the Everglades and elsewhere as a means to expand Americas energy production, Scott said those on both sides of the issue should maintain an open mind.
I think we have to be cautious on any oil drilling, whether its in the state, or on our beaches, close to our beaches, or in the Gulf, because were not going to ruin our environment, Scott said.
But he wouldnt join groups like the Miami-based Everglades Foundation, which quickly criticized Bachmanns statement. Part of his stance, Scott said, is due to the fact that oil drilling is already taking place on the edge of the Everglades.
There is a road in Naples called Oil Well Road, so we already have oil drilling, Scott said. I think people are shocked we have it already.
Companies have been extracting oil from under the 729,000-acre Big Cypress federal wildlife preserve adjacent to the Everglades National Park in eastern Collier County since early 1943.
In recent years, 10 wells tapping into the Sunniland Trend under the preserve have pulled up an average of 3,400 barrels a day.
Everglades Foundation CEO Kirk Fordham, in a released statement, noted there are currently no efforts to drill in the Everglades. But he anticipates any such effort would face widespread opposition.
If there is any thought being given to expanding oil drilling into the Everglades, my suggestion to the Governor is quite simple: Dont go there, Fordham said. Unless Governor Scott wants to unleash a firestorm of opposition from hunters, fishermen, conservationists and millions of Floridians who depend on the Everglades for their water supply, he should abandon any notion of encouraging drilling in this sacred place."
Speaking in Sarasota on Aug. 28, Bachmann said the nation needs to tap all of its energy resources, if it can be done responsibly.
Whether that is in the Everglades, or whether that is in the eastern Gulf region, or whether that's in North Dakota, we need to go where the energy is, she said. Of course, it needs to be done responsibly. If we can't responsibly access energy in the Everglades, then we shouldn't do it.
Jim Turner can be reached at email@example.com or at (850) 727-0859.