Nelson urges locals to voice opposition to oil drilling off Fla. coast

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, Fla. – With just two weeks left for public comment on the Obama administration's proposal to allow oil drilling off the coast of Florida, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson is urging local leaders and citizens to speak out against drilling activity.

Nelson spoke at a news conference Friday in Jacksonville Beach.

While the locals and the tourists understand the economic impact, there was nothing but resounding nos from those who live at the beach. Their concern is the environmental impact offshore drilling and testing with a sonic cannon could create.

It's an oil drilling proposal that promises to create jobs in Florida and boost the economy, but environmentalists are worried about the possible impact to Florida's real money maker -- the beach.

That's why Nelson is urging locals to voice their opposition to underwater testing for oil along the ocean's floor.

"I think most everybody, when they think about what it would do to our tourist industry that we depend upon, our fishing industry, if we had oil sloshing around in our waters and coming up on the beaches," Nelson said.

He said hurricanes could cause the most damage to the offshore rigs and put Florida's entire coastline at risk if the rigs were damaged. But more importantly, he said the underwater testing that's on the table is a waste of time and federal money.

"There just isn't any oil out there to speak of," Nelson said. "The oil is really off Louisiana, where the sediments came down for millions of years."

"Clean energy is probably the wave of the future," tourist Dan Mallen said.

Tourists like the Mallen are torn on the issue, realizing the economic impact that oil drilling could have on Florida's economy. They say the risks, however, outweigh the gains, because offshore drilling could put the tourism industry at risk.

"It's very important to the economy to this area, but again it's environmentally -- I wouldn't like to see the oil rigs and the shipping. I'd like to contain the views of the beach," Mallen said.

"I'd hate to see that view distorted or dead fish, the ecological mess it could create," tourist Chris Mallen said. "I do understand the economy though."

Nelson is asking local officials like county commissioners and business owners to voice their opposition to offshore drilling. Public comment ends Aug. 15.

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