Panama City, Florida
April 04, 2012 07:00:41 PM
RANDAL YAKEY / News Herald Writer
Comments and opinions on this issue can be emailed to boemegomeis@BOEM.gov
PANAMA CITY BEACH – “Drill, baby, drill” may be coming to a coastal area near you.
The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) held two public hearings Wednesday on the potential drilling for oil about 125 miles south of Pensacola. The triangular area encompasses about 657,905 acres and could be developed predominantly for oil extraction but would allow for natural gas exploration, as well.
A three-member panel took questions Wednesday from the public at the Wyndam Bay Point Resort.
Pam Anderson, of Capt. Anderson’s Marina, came before the panel to express concerns regarding how artificial reefs and the fishing industry would be impacted.
“We don’t want this in our backyard,” she said. Capt. Anderson’s Marina specializes in deep-sea fishing excursions, dolphin tours and private charters.
Even though there was a sparse crowd on hand for the afternoon session, that didn’t stop local John Dunaway from telling the panel of his concerns.
“I have lived in Bay County for the past 35 years,” Dunaway said. “The primary reason people come to this area is the white beaches. Anything that would impact those beaches would have a detrimental effect.”
Dunaway reminded those in attendance that oil well leases proposed for the Florida coast are closer to the beaches of Bay County than the Deepwater Horizon, which ruptured, exploded and then sank in April 2010, causing a massive oil spill.
“We did not have a direct impact from the last spill, but the pure perception from visitors to our beaches and the Southeast that we had a problem caused the (tourist) industry great harm,” Dunaway said.
Caryl Fagot, public affairs specialist for the BOEM, explained there is an area along the “military line,” which runs about 125 south of Pensacola, which has two parcels of property for lease. Two other areas are already under lease.
“We operate on a specific five-year plan,” Fagot said. “The plan we have been operating on was from 2007 to mid-2012. In that plan there were already lease sales in that area.
“There is no production in that area and there is no drilling in that area,” Fagot said. “In the new program, which we are working on for mid-2012 to 2017, we are proposing two more sales in this eastern planning area.”
Whether drilling begins in the area would depend on demand and input from the community, Fagot said.
The eastern planning area, which includes an area south of Pensacola to the western coast of Florida, includes areas where the Department of Defense (DoD) conducts major military exercises.
President of the Bay Defense Alliance Tom Neubauer said he did not want the potential drilling to interfere with the DoD’s needs in the Gulf.
“The Gulf test range, which is essentially everything east of the military mission line, which comes down from Pensacola into the Gulf of Mexico, is really essential to nine bases in Northwest Florida,” Neubauer said. “Most of those bases do testing and training, research and development in the Gulf of Mexico. Š Drilling in those areas would impair those missions.”
According to the BOEM, there currently are no plans to drill in the “Gulf test range area.” But Neubauer came out to make sure that was the case.
Neubauer also was concerned about boat traffic to the drilling sites and how that traffic would have an impact on the military mission in the Gulf.
BOEM has issued a Proposed Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program for 2012-2017 that would make more than 75 percent of undiscovered technically recoverable oil and gas estimated on the Outer Continental Shelf available for development.
Wednesday’s meeting was one in a series of public hearings being held this week along the Gulf Coast. Comments at the meetings will be used in preparing an Environmental Impact Statement for the two proposed oil and gas lease sales.
Planning for an Environmental Impact Statement does not mean a final decision has been made about their inclusion in the leasing program for 2012-2017, BOEM officials noted.
Read more: http://www.newsherald.com/articles/drilling-101686-federal-agency.html#ixzz1r8SlruBR
Special thanks to Richard Charter