So far, British Petroleum's $20 billion oil-spill compensation fund has paid a whopping $44.1 million for 2,776 approved claims in the Florida Keys. Miami-Dade County claims total $4.1 million, Broward County's $2.9 million.
Considering that no oil actually reached Florida while it spewed into the Gulf of Mexico after the April 20 explosion of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig, the number of approved Florida damage claims is another example of how oil drilling and tourism, Florida's No. 1 industry, don't mix.
So the Interior Department's announcement of a seven-year moratorium on drilling in federal waters off Florida's Atlantic coast and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico is welcome news. Just weeks before the BP spill, President Obama proposed a plan to allow drilling 125 miles off Florida's Gulf coast and on the Atlantic's Outer Continental Shelf from Delaware to Central Florida.
Mr. Obama's drilling plan was intended to appeal to Republicans to support climate-change legislation, but it angered many Floridians opposed to drilling, including tourism officials. Now, the climate bill's passage looks undoable with the GOP's increased numbers in the House and Senate. That reality, plus fallout from the largest oil spill in U.S. history, apparently convinced the Obama administration to retreat from its pro-drilling stance -- good.
The oil and gas industry decried the new ban, saying it will mean fewer jobs and more dependence on foreign oil. What Big Oil didn't mention is that 43 million acres in the central and western Gulf are still very much open to drilling.
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