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Politics

Gulf Blowout II Ripples Across Florida

September 1, 2010 - 6:00pm

It's not another BP disaster, but an explosion and fire on an offshore drilling platform spread a mile-long sheen of oil in the Gulf of Mexico Wednesday afternoon.

Though even farther from Florida's coast, the accident sent political ripples across the Sunshine State as Democrats lambasted Republican leaders' decision Wednesday not to convene a special legislative session to deal with offshore drilling issues.

"By their actions yesterday -- or, frankly, lack of action since April 20 when the (BP) rig blew -- they have shown that they are ignorant of the consequences of drilling offshore, deaf to the concerns of residents, business owners and tourists over the long-term effects of this disaster, and hoping everyone will just forget it ever happened," state Rep. Adam Fetterman, D-Port St. Lucie, said in a statement.

"One wonders if theyll even notice what just occurred today."

All 13 Mariner Energy workers survived the blast and fire on the rig that was located about 100 miles off the central Louisiana coast, the Coast Guard said. Only one injury was reported.

Mariner's Vermillion oil rig No. 380, situated more than 100 miles west of BP's Deepwater Horizon rig, was working in relatively shallow waters.

It was producing 58,800 gallons of oil and 900,000 cubic feet of gas per day, though it was not clear if it had been drilling Wednesday. The platform can store 4,200 gallons of oil, the Houston-based Mariner said.

It was believed that the spill involved petroleum that had been stored onboard.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal told CNN that a well connected to the oil and gas production platform caught fire.

Gov. Charlie Crist called the Florida Legislature into a special session this summer in an effort to place a constitutional amendment on the November ballot banning offshore drilling in the state's waters. Republicans, who control both the House and the Senate, refused to take action, saying such drilling was already prohibited by state law.

Reached by Sunshine State News, Crist campaign spokesman Danny Kanner declined comment.

But state Rep. Chris Dorworth, R-Lake Mary, fired back, saying, "I am disappointed that Rep. Fetterman would resort to using empty election-year rhetoric and playing politics with an issue that seriously impacts so many families and businesses in Florida when earlier this week he told his colleagues otherwise."

Dorworth, who headed a panel called Deepwater Horizon Workgroup 6,said, As a member of Workgroup 6, Rep. Fetterman agreed with many of the work groups recommendations and signed off on the final bipartisan decision to conduct further review of the ongoing issues concerning the Deepwater Horizon oil well blowout that is, until it was time for a press release."

The Deepwater Horizon Workgroups were established by Speaker of the House Larry Cretul, R-Ocala, to offer legislative solutions to the issues created by the Gulf oil spill. The work groups included both Republican and Democratic members.

Fetterman, an attorney and first-term legislator from Florida's Treasure Coast, said Wednesday's explosion "brings home the fact that we must do more to not only prevent these disasters but protect Floridas interests, citizens and businesses from the consequences of special interests and corporate greed.

Yesterday, I spoke out against Floridas inaction in the face of a very real calamity confronting our citizens and small businesses. I derided our `leaders for their delay and denial tactics. Little did I know that we were a few hours away from a second oil rig disaster," Fetterman said.

Because the Mariner rig was working in just 340 feet of water, it was exempt from a federal government's offshore drilling moratorium, which applied only to rigs drilling 500 feet or deeper, said a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement.

In a related development, Florida Senate President Jeff Atwater released a scathing letter he sent to Kenneth Feinberg, federal administrator of the Gulf Oil Spill Fund.

In the letter, dated Thursday, Atwater said he was "increasingly troubled by reports of delays in the claims process, artificial and capricious deadlines on filing, and an apparent insensitivity to the very real, long-term impacts of this tragic accident on the families and small businesses of Florida."

Atwater, who is the Republican nominee for state chief financial officer, urged Feinberg to speed up reimbursements and recommended that "the end of the claims process will be determined by the needs of Floridians, not prematurely closed simply for the sake of expediency or to accommodate the wishes of BP."

The North Palm Beach Republican leader also told Feinberg, "I was shocked to hear you quoted as suggesting that pictures on television were the best indication that circumstances here in Florida are 'fabulous.'

"Not only do the residents of Florida have to bear the ongoing pain of an uncertain future, but they have now been dealt the further indignity of having their legitimate concerns publicly and cavalierly dismissed by the very individual in whose hands their future economic viability has been placed. The citizens of Florida deserve far better," Atwater wrote.

--

Contact Kenric Ward at kward@sunshinestatenews.com or at (772) 801-5341.

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