Thursday, August 5, 2010
Oil spill lessons include benefit of dispersants, Florida DEP chief says
The use of chemical dispersants against the oil spill was a benefit to Florida with no drawbacks, Department of Environmental Protection Secretary Michael Sole told a House work group on Wednesday.
House Speaker Larry Cretul appointed work groups last month to recommend possible legislation in response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill off the Louisiana coast. Sole spoke Monday on a conference call with the group that is dealing with preparation for future disasters and is chaired by Rep. Trudi Williams, R-Fort Myers.
BP used nearly 2 million gallons of dispersants to help break up the oil spill since April 20 but none was sprayed off Florida, according to DEP. U.S. Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said BP "often carpet-bombed the ocean with these chemicals" but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says they were less toxic than the oil itself.
On the Wednesday conference call, Sole was asked by House members to discuss lessons learned from the federal and state response to the oil spill and he covered several topics. He said the use of dispersants helped prevent more oil from reaching Panhandle beaches from the spill site 120 miles away.
"We really didn't get any of the adverse impacts of dispersants," he said. "We just got all of the benefit."
Sole also credited Florida with not erecting barriers to protect the coast from oil. "There were a lot of really bad ideas implemented in other states just because of the fear," he said. "I hate to say it harshly, but it's true."
He was critical of the federal government for closing as much as one-third of the Gulf to fishing at one time and said areas were closed where there was no oil found, affecting the seafood industry in Florida. While he said the intent was to protect the reputation of Gulf seafood, he added that people nationwide are afraid now of eating it anyway. Williams chimed in, "It seems when they (federal officials) can use a fly swatter, they use a bomb. They are so far over-reaching in everything they do."
Sole also said the state should have pushed earlier for the Coast Guard and BP to open a Florida command office rather than relying the Mobile, Ala. district office to coordinate the oil spill response. And he said the federal government should have oil-skimming boats and protective boom in place in the state to deal with future oil spills even if Florida maintains its ban against drilling in state waters, which extend only 10.3 miles from shore.
"Why should the state of Florida take on that obligation?" he said.
(U.S. Air Force Photo by Tech. Sgt. Adrian Cadiz. Story provided by the Florida Tribune. Story copyrighted by Bruce Ritchie and FloridaEnvironments.com. Do not copy or redistribute without permission.)