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County Opposes Proposed Federal Drilling Program

11/30/2011 at 5:10pm

Oil RigCounty Opposes Proposed
Federal Drilling Program

At their meeting on Tuesday morning, the Board of Lee County Commissioners approved an extension of the build out dates for the Brooks in Bonita Springs and a 10-day extension on the Matlacha Bridge Replacement Project and also agreed to send letters of opposition to a proposed bill that will allow licensed professionals to be exempt from local fertilizer ordinances and a 5-year lease program being proposed by the federal government to allow for oil exploration off Florida's coast.

During the discussion on the bridge project, Commissioner Bigelow asked when the project is now scheduled for completion and David Loveland from the Lee County Department of Transportation replied 'late November, 2012'.

"The extension is to allow for an additional crosswalk, repair the existing bridge deck, additional erosion control and will add 10 days to the project,” he said, adding that the project was being financed by local option gas taxes.

It was during Commissioner's Items that the fertilizer bill was brought up, with the Board unanimously agreeing to Commissioner Ray Judah's request to send the letter of opposition.

"The fertilizer industry never seems to let go of the fact that they seem to think they have no responsibility in polluting our lakes and rivers,” Judah said. "Now there's these latest bills to exempt licensed professionals from local fertilizer ordinances, which makes them ineffective.”

Judah had one more request that was rather unusual.

"Algenol has really been a success story, and next year they will be furthering production,” he said. "Their CEO, Paul Woods had a novel idea and it concerns an issue that needs to be resolved in tactful way – he wants to paint on top of his roof.”

Judah explained that since Algenol's main building is in a flight path, Woods wanted to paint 'Algenol' in large letters so that it could be seen by people arriving in Lee County.

"Once he gets all those photobioreactors in place, it will really be quite a sight from the air and get people talking.,” he said. "We just have an issue with a little wrinkle in our sign ordinance that if we could get it resolved it would allow some businesses like Algenol to put lettering that can be seen from the air.”

The Board agreed to look into Judah's proposal.

Finally, Chairman John Manning (he was appointed to the position at the BoCC's meeting on November 15, with Commissioner Brian Bigelow taking over the Vice-Chairman's seat) said that the US Government is proposing a 5-year lease program for oil drilling off the coast of Florida.

On November 8, the United States Department of the Interior released a proposed 5-year plan for offshore oil-and-gas leasing, saying it's taking the "middle road". Interior Secretary Ken Salazar Department said that it "will help us continue to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and create jobs here at home."

Under the plan, the Pacific and Atlantic coasts would be off-limits to drilling, as well as areas deep in the Gulf of Mexico and near the Florida coast. It calls also for 10 lease sales in areas of the Gulf that are already open for development starting next year. The proposal does not reverse course from the White House's position last year to drop plans for drilling off the eastern Gulf Coast - including Florida - and as such has drawn opposition from both the GOP – who want more offshore drilling – and environmentalists – who point to last summer's Deepwater Horizon spill as proof that there is no safe drilling in deep offshore waters. Just weeks before that spill, in March 2010, President Obama said that he would consider "allowing drilling at least 125 miles off the Florida Gulf Coast”. That position was quickly reversed when the rig exploded and oil began gushing into the Gulf of Mexico.

"The Tourist Development Council is coming up with a resolution on the 9th of December opposing that, but I would also like this board to send a letter to our representatives in Washington voicing our strong opposition to this plan,” said Manning, and the board agreed.

Keri Hendry