Gov. Rick Scott found himself on both sides of the fence on Tuesday when he said in a speech that he supports oil drilling in the Everglades, then hours later issued a clarification that he didnt mean an expansion of drilling.
Scotts remarks to the Tallahassee-based Economics Club of Florida were prompted by an audience member who asked whether the governor agreed with Republican presidential candidate Michelle Bachmanns call last week for oil drilling in the Everglades for additional energy.
You know we already have drilling in the Everglades. We already have oil wells in the Everglades, Scott replied. Theres a road in Naples called Oil Well Road, so we already have oil drilling. Weve had it since 1943.
He noted that most Floridians are very shocked to learn that drilling is happening in Florida. He added that I think we have to be very cautious if theres going to be any more drilling.
The comments unleashed immediate warnings from environmentalists, who have fought for decades to shield South Floridas crucial watershed from additional oil drilling as they attempt to restore the Everglades ecosystem.
"My suggestion to the Governor is quite simple: Dont go there, said Kirk Fordham, CEO of the Everglades Foundation, the non-profit agency formed to advocate for protection of the states River of Grass. Unless Governor Scott wants to unleash a firestorm of opposition from hunters, fishermen, conservationists and millions of Floridians who depend on the Everglades for their water supply, he should abandon any notion of encouraging drilling in this sacred place."
Within hours, the governors office issued a clarification of his statement, retreating from any suggestion that Scotts remarks could be implied as supportive of additional drilling in the Everglades.
Governor Scott has not called for an expansion of drilling in the Everglades, said Amy Graham, deputy communications secretary. That discussion is not on the table.
The issue has traditionally been a tricky one for presidential candidates in Florida. In 2008, GOP presidential contender Fred Thompson said hed open up the Everglades to more oil drilling only to have GOP rival Mitt Romney respond: Youre kidding...Lets take that off the table.
To read the complete article, visit www.miamiherald.com.