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Miami Commissioners Unanimously Vote Against Offshore Oil And Gas Drilling

A line of oil rigs sits in the Santa Barbara Channel off the California coast. A Trump administration plan to expand oil drilling includes Florida, surprising industry analysts.
Miami Herald
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Miami commissioners voted unanimously Thursday to oppose drilling for gas and oil off Florida's coasts.

The vote follows confirmation by the U.S. Department of the Interior that Florida is among states where drilling could be expanded, despite a statement to the contrary by Interior  Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Environmental activists say that although the resolution doesn't have policy implications for the city, it's still significant.

"Resolutions send a message up the political chain," said Salomé Garcia of the environmental group Oceana, which is leading an anti-drilling campaign. "They can be influential in helping state-level elected officials and even members of Congress get a better understanding of what it is that voters want."

She said the vote makes Miami the largest Florida city to formally protest the Trump administration drilling plan.

Opposition to oil and gas exploration in Florida stems in part from concerns over the potential for environmental catastrophe. The explosion of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in 2010 devastated marine life and coastal tourism and fishing in Louisiana and Florida.

Garcia said Oceana is also concerned about the testing used to look for undersea oil and gas reserves. The method, called "seismic airgun blasting," involves ships projecting sound waves as loud as jet engines through the water -- sometimes every few minutes for weeks at a time. Garcia said the blasting interferes with the sonar systems of mammals like dolphins and whales, and can disrupt the habits or even injure other marine life.

"We're South Florida. We depend so much on the rich biodiversity of our ecosystems for every part of our tourism, our fishing, our recreation," she said. "Seismic airgun blasting is a huge issue, and we cannot allow this activity, alongside offshore drilling, to happen off our coasts."

Public comments on the federal offshore oil and gas drilling proposal are being accepted through March 9

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Kate Stein can't quite explain what attracts her to South Florida. It's more than just the warm weather (although this Wisconsin native and Northwestern University graduate definitely appreciates the South Florida sunshine). It has a lot to do with being able to travel from the Everglades to Little Havana to Brickell without turning off 8th Street. It's also related to Stein's fantastic coworkers, whom she first got to know during a winter 2016 internship.Officially, Stein is WLRN's environment, data and transportation journalist. Privately, she uses her job as an excuse to rove around South Florida searching for stories à la Carl Hiaasen and Edna Buchanan. Regardless, Stein speaks Spanish and is always thrilled to run, explore and read.