Gov. Charlie Crist has convened a special session to propose a constitutional ban on offshore drilling (the bill can be found here). The Florida Independent will be covering the session and fact-checking the arguments made during the debate, which begins at noon today. Keep coming back throughout the day for the latest.

We will also be regularly updating this page, which seeks to answer all the basic questions surrounding the offshore drilling debate.

If you have questions about the response to the spill, the costs and benefits of offshore drilling, or the effects of the proposed moratorium, send them to travis [at] floridaindependent [dot] com.

Where does Florida have authority over offshore drilling?

Florida has authority over submerged lands within 10.36 miles (9 nautical miles) from shore in the Gulf of Mexico and 3.45 miles (3 nautical miles) from shore in the Atlantic Ocean. This map shows the boundaries of Florida waters as defined by the Submerged Lands Act of 1953. Beyond those boundaries, Florida has no direct authority.

Is offshore drilling already banned in Florida waters?

Yes. Florida statutes ban the construction of offshore oil rigs in state waters “without exception” and also restrict the leasing of state land for oil and gas exploration.

Have lawmakers tried to lift the existing ban?

Yes. During the 2009 regular session of the Florida legislature, the House passed a bill that would have allowed drilling in Florida waters, but the Senate did not take up the proposal.

During the 2010 regular session (which ended 10 days after the Deepwater Horizon oil spill), state Sen. Mike Haridopolos introduced a similar bill that ultimately died in committee.

Map of USGS Province 50

USGS Province 50, the portion of Florida for which comprehensive estimates of oil reserves exist

How much oil is available in Florida state waters?

The U.S. Geological Survey divides Florida between two “provinces” in which it conducts estimates of oil reserves.

Florida state waters in Province 50, which covers areas of the state east of the Apalachicola River (see map), contain a mean estimate of 236 million barrels of oil equivalents (combined oil and natural gas), according to a study by the Collins Center for Public Policy.

Estimates for Province 49, which includes portions of the panhandle west of the Apalachicola, are due out later in 2010. According to the Collins Center:

Assessments of a number of geologic formations have been conducted within Province 49 during the past decade. These assessments show minimal amounts of oil and gas in Florida’s state submerged lands. However, Province 49 includes a geologic region known as the Norphlet formation. The Norphlet formation contains significant amounts of natural gas but an older USGS assessment from 1995 does not indicate how much of Norphlet’s resources fall within Florida’s waters.

How much oil does Florida consume each year?

In 2008, Florida consumed 331.8 million barrels of oil, mostly for transportation. Due to the recession, consumption may be down slightly in the years that followed.

FURTHER READING

Florida-focused:

  • Exploring the Gulf,” a report prepared for the Century Commission for a Sustainable Florida by the Collins Center for Public Policy exploring in detail the way offshore drilling proposals would affect Florida
  • The Tallahassee Democrat’s offshore drilling page

General:

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