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Politics

Vern Buchanan Introduces Bill to Stop Cuban Offshore Drilling Near Florida

January 20, 2011 - 6:00pm

Florida Republican Congressman Vern Buchanan introduced a bill Friday that could have a deep impact on Florida, because it seeks to stop Cuba from establishing oil rigs only 50 miles from the coast of the Sunshine State.

Cubas plan to drill for oil in its sovereign waters off the Florida Keys poses a serious threat to our tourism industry and our environment, Buchanan said.

The Buchanan measure would permit the U.S. secretary of the interior to deny drilling leases to companies involved with countries facing trade sanctions. Buchanan specifically noted that Repsol, a Spanish corporation, has an agreement in place with Cuba to drill off the Florida coast.

Buchanan insisted that Cuba, which is looking to drill even deeper than BP did in the Gulf, does not have the capacity to deal with a spill like the one that plagued Florida and other Gulf states last year.

As we have learned from the Deepwater Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, an oil spill can devastate a regional economy and impose serious long-term environmental damage to precious natural resources, said Buchanan. My bill would help eliminate the threat of a similar spill off the Florida Keys by authorizing the interior secretary to deny permits for the project.

Buchanan feels confident that his legislation will have an impact, noting that Repsol abandoned the idea of launching a gas development plan in Iran when confronted by American resistance. He added that he believes Repsol will pull the plug on its Cuban venture if his legislation is passed.

The congressman, who has represented all of DeSoto, Hardee and Sarasota counties and parts of Charlotte and Manatee counties since first winning election in 2006, insisted that the impact of a spill in the Keys could lead to disastrous results for Florida.

Quickly capping the well would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, Buchanan said. It would take just three days for oil to reach Floridas beaches if a spill occurred at the site.

Buchanan raised the issue in October when reports broke that Cuba was looking to launch offshore drilling. At that time, the congressman wrote to President Barack Obama, asking for the administration to work with the Spanish government to ensure the project would not get off the ground.

Buchanan is not the only prominent Florida politician to raise the issue in recent days. Sunshine State Democrat Bob Graham, who served as both governor and in the U.S. Senate, warned in a speech last week to the Economic Club of Florida in Tallahassee that Cuba plans to launch 14 oil wells just to the north of the island.

Reach Kevin Derby at kderby@sunshinestatenews.com or at (850) 727-0859.

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