Florida Energy Associates, one of the primary backers of the push to open Florida waters to oil drilling last year, recently trimmed its lobbying force to zero after having more than 30 last year.
The House last year voted 70-43 to open Florida waters within three miles of the coast to drilling, but the bill was never taken up by the Senate. Florida Energy Associates, with largely undisclosed backing, pushed the measure, which emerged late in the legislative session. The firm withdrew the last of its 12 lobbyists during the week of Feb. 15.
Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, a drilling opponent, and David Mica of the Florida Petroleum Council weighed in on opposite sides of a draft report that says Florida's nearshore waters holds less than enough oil reserves to meet U.S. energy demand for a week.
The House Select Policy Council on Strategic and Economic Planning today holds another in a series of hearings towards developing legislation while the Senate is studying the issue.
David Rancourt, a principal in Florida Energy Associates who was one of the last 12 lobbyists, said on Friday the lobbying campaign is going away but the support for drilling is not.
"We're thrilled" with the progress being made, Rancourt said.
"We feel like we've accomplished the mission in helping educate the public." Rancourt, who works with Southern Strategy Group, said he is among those who will continue to support drilling -- not as lobbyists but as Florida residents.
Ron Sachs Communications in Tallahassee no longer is representing Florida Energy Associates.
On Thursday, The Collins Center for Public Policy released a draft report for the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida, a 15-member state panel.
The draft report said research shows that the oil and natural gas from peninsular Florida waters within 10.3 miles of shore would produce enough petroleum to supply the nation for less than a week. The estimate does not include potential reserves in the western Florida Panhandle.
In remarks to reporters in Tallahassee on Friday, Nelson reiterated that drilling is a threat to military missions over the Gulf of Mexico -- a message disputed in recent weeks by drilling supporters. "This is just another confirmation that as the Legislature takes up this issue that they should not be hoodwinked by the oil boys," Nelson said.
Florida Petroleum Council Executive Director David Mica said the oil and gas reserves may have been underestimated. But he also said the report highlighted the low environmental risk of drilling.
"If the research into that potential resource doesn't justify the risk to capital necessary to move forward, then it won't happen," Mica said.
(Copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)