By Sean Shaw, former Florida State Representative
Fishing in the gorgeous blue waters off Florida’s Gulf Coast is a passion of mine and has been part of my life since I was a young boy. Then and now, every time I cast my reel into the sea and watch the sunrise over the vast expanse of water, I feel connected to our planet and the countless generations of people who have relied on our seas for their life-giving resources.
Floridians love and cherish our beaches, coasts, and marine waters. They are core to our identity and way of life. But our oceans are under threat.
Oil drilling — something Floridians vehemently oppose — could destroy our precious waters and our quality of life. It needs to be permanently banned everywhere, and it should be a campaign promise of every candidate.
I was recently disturbed to see a report that confirmed President Donald Trump is deliberately trying to trick Florida voters by hiding his plans to open the Gulf of Mexico to offshore oil drilling until after the November election. For decades, the oil and gas industry has been trying to sell Gulf Coast residents on the wonders of offshore drilling. We have smartly always said no. But now, they seem to have found a buyer in Trump.
Residents have every reason to worry about oil blanketing our shores. In 2010, our paradise came very close to being lost forever. The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill disaster killed 11 innocent people and, for 87 days, the world watched in horror as black, greasy oil shot out of the ocean floor and into our gulf.
At the time, no one knew where the oil was going to go or the long-term impacts on our region. Media reported shocking images of oiled-covered pelicans and globs of oil washing up on fragile coastal barrier islands. It wasn’t long after that the oil blanketed the sugar-sand beaches of Pensacola, Florida.
The uncertainty about the situation was unbearable, especially for families and businesses that rely on our coastal waters. The BP oil spill and mitigation decimated Florida’s tourism industry. That event was a dire warning. But, in many ways, it could have been much worse.
As an attorney in private practice back in 2010, I fought for the BP oil spill victims, ensuring families and businesses got the justice they deserved. As a fisherman and lover of natural Florida, I saw firsthand the devastating effects of the oil spill on the local economy here in Florida and the degradation of our coastal ecosystems. And with climate change now threatening everything we hold dear and with solar becoming the cheapest form of energy, increasing offshore oil drilling is completely nonsensical.
I challenge every elected official and candidate in Florida to speak up against Trump’s secret plans. Florida voters will not allow the president and his allies in the oil and gas industry to trick us and destroy the waters and marine life we cherish.
Floridians won’t be fooled. In 2018, voters smartly rejected offshore oil drilling with nearly 70 percent of the vote when they approved a constitutional ban in state waters. But federal waters remain unprotected, and the oil and gas industry has been eyeing them for decades. The president and his handlers know Florida voters adamantly oppose offshore drilling, which is why he is trying to trick voters until after the election. We can’t let that happen.
This November, we can tell Trump how we feel about offshore oil and gas drilling and reject him and his irresponsible, reckless and corrupt treatment of our environment. As a fisherman and Floridian, I know one thing is sure: Our gulf is worth fighting for, and we can do so at the ballot box.
Sean Shaw served in the Florida House of Representatives and was the 2018 Democratic nominee for attorney general. He is the founder of People Over Profits and currently serves on Florida Conservation Voters’ board of directors.
“The Invading Sea” is the opinion arm of the Florida Climate Reporting Network, a collaborative of news organizations across the state focusing on the threats posed by the warming climate.