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Constitution Panel Backs Oil Drilling Ban

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

A proposal to ban oil drilling in Florida's coastal waters was approved Thursday by a Constitution Revision Commission panel.

The commission's General Provisions Committee endorsed the measure (Proposal 91), sponsored by Commissioner Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch of Martin County. It would prohibit the “drilling for exploration or extraction of oil or natural gas” beneath state waters that “lie between the mean high-water line and the outermost boundaries of the state's territorial seas.”

Currently, state waters extend three miles into the Atlantic Ocean and about 10 miles into the Gulf of Mexico. The proposed constitutional amendment would not impact oil drilling or exploration in federal waters off Florida's shores.

The proposal was opposed by the Florida Petroleum Council and Associated Industries of Florida. Opponents noted that a Florida statute already bans offshore drilling in state waters. But Thurlow-Lippisch said her effort to place the ban in the state Constitution would not be a “redundancy,” and it would strengthen the prohibition.

“We don't need it (drilling) here in Florida,” she said. “Let them have it in New Orleans. Let them have it in Mobile.”

The proposal next moves to the commission's Declaration of Rights Committee. To be placed on the 2018 general election ballot, the proposal would eventually have to win support from at least 22 members of the 37-member Constitution Revision Commission. If placed on the ballot, at least 60 percent of the voters would have to approve the measure before it could become part of the Constitution.