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Decision being delayed on offshore gas drilling
By CRAIG PITTMAN
© St. Petersburg Times, published June 25, 2000
Federal officials announced Friday they are postponing a decision on whether to allow Chevron U.S.A. to drill the first ever production well off Florida, in order to obtain more information on "the potential long-term environmental effects."
That means the U.S. Commerce Department -- whose secretary, Bill Daley, left this week to run Al Gore's presidential campaign -- now may not make a decision on Chevron's plans before the November election.
Mark Ferrulo of the Florida Public Interest Research Group, which opposes offshore drilling, called the delay "disconcerting." He also said the timing was "awfully coincidental," given Daley's new responsibilities with the Gore campaign.
"We really want this decision to come down before the election, because this is a decision by the Clinton-Gore administration that the voters should be able to evaluate," Ferrulo said.
Chevron officials, who have been trying since 1996 to get permission to drill 21 natural gas wells about 25 miles off Pensacola Beach, could not be reached for comment.
Chevron wants to tap into a formation of natural gas 20,000 feet beneath the ocean floor that company officials say could supply all of Florida's commercial and residential gas customers for nearly 30 years.
Redfish and Spanish mackerel spawn in the remarkably pristine waters. Dolphins and sea turtles swim through regularly.
Gov. Jeb Bush and Department of Environmental Protection Secretary David Struhs have both spoken out against Chevron's plans, arguing the environmental risks are greater than the potential economic rewards. The Environmental Protection Agency said Chevron's drilling would pose a threat to water quality and marine life.
Originally Daley was to make a decision by this spring.
© St. Petersburg Times. All rights reserved.