In exactly two weeks, Floridians will have the opportunity to vote yes on a constitutional amendment banning oil and gas exploration in Florida’s state waters. Amendment 9 is one of eight amendments placed on the ballot by the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC). The CRC meets every twenty years to consider new amendments to the Florida Constitution and its members are appointed by the Governor, Senate President, Speaker of the House, and Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. Amendments that the CRC approves are placed on the ballot for a vote of the people, where they need 60% approval for adoption.
Amendment 9 would prohibit drilling, either for exploration or extraction, of oil or natural gas in state waters. This prohibition would include the ocean from shoreline to the outermost boundaries of the state’s territorial seas. The amendment would also ban tobacco vaping/e-cigarettes in enclosed indoor workplaces. If you’re wondering why vaping and offshore drilling are in the same amendment proposal, you can thank the CRC for that. The CRC claimed that too many constitutional amendment proposals would lead to voter fatigue, so they opted to “bundle” many of the amendments together. The CRC process was a long one, and Surfrider activists attended several public hearings to advocate for Amendment 9. Now that we're on the ballot, it's up to voters to get the amendment across the finish line!
Why is constitutionally prohibiting offshore drilling so important for Florida? Because even though drilling in our state waters seems impossible today, in 2009 the Florida Legislature nearly opened our coasts to oil and gas exploration. With only eight days left in the Legislative Session, the Florida House of Representatives voted to lift the existing statutory prohibition on drilling in state waters. Thankfully, the Florida Senate did not follow suit. The bill was going to be raised again the following year, but before the end of the 2010 Legislative Session, Florida’s beaches were oiled by the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Before the spill, drilling proponents told the legislature that offshore drilling was safe and the technology was exceptional. Just two months before Deepwater Horizon, David Mica, executive director of the Florida Petroleum Council said, "We can demonstrate that we can gain oil and gas resources without significant harm to the tourism or to the ecology in Florida.” David Mica is again urging Florida to begin exploring offshore drilling, “Florida has everything to gain and nothing to lose by safely exploring our energy options.” Big oil is relentless, and without constitutional protections from drilling, our beaches are at risk.
Florida’s tourism economy, natural resources, and abundant recreational opportunities are simply too valuable to leave unprotected. It’s up to Florida voters to say YES to Amendment 9 to protect our coasts.
Floridians, vote YES on 9 and please consider volunteering at the polls!