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Commentary: Gulf oil spill should end push to drill off Florida's coast

With hurricane season bearing down on Gulf of Mexico, imagine the ever-growing oil spill rushing ashore in a storm surge. That horrifying scenario should compel the greatest possible sense of urgency in capping the well blowout and cleaning up the massive slick.

Florida legislative leaders continue to believe drilling in state waters will reap billions in royalties and plug the $6 billion budget shortfall expected next year. "One incident should not put the idea to death," incoming Senate president Mike Haridopolous, R-Melbourne, stated in published reports.

We strongly disagree.

With Florida's fishing, marine and tourism industries bracing for a catastrophe, how could state leaders recklessly shrug off this spill as something less than an environmental and economic disaster? With 210,000 gallons of oil pouring into Gulf waters each day from the well 43 miles off the Louisiana coast, why would Florida allow rigs as close as three miles from shore?

The threat to the region's fishing industry is already apparent as government officials banned fishing in waters from Florida's Pensacola Bay to the mouth of the Mississippi River in Louisiana. Robbed of their livelihood, many fishermen are joining oil clean-up crews.

Many questions remain about how the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded on April 20, sank two days later and began unleashing oil after the wellhead blew out. Safety cutoff devices failed, and BP, the oil industry giant responsible for clean-up, does not know why.

A year ago, BP asserted it could handle a "worst case scenario" at the Deepwater Horizon site, some 5,000 feet below the surface. That is clearly not the case.

To read the complete editorial, visit The Bradenton Herald.