In 2008, Florida Senator Bill Nelson introduced a bill “to protect Florida’s coast from the ravages of oil drilling” by abandoning the U.S.-Cuba agreement on our maritime border and by threatening sanctions against the executives (and their families) of foreign companies that explore for Cuban offshore oil.
Now that the one company that is proceeding with drilling plans, Repsol, has built a rig and is getting closer to drilling, Nelson has introduced a different bill.
I criticized the first one, and I’ll praise this one.
Senator Nelson’s new bill seems to be driven by two realities: the drilling will proceed whether we like it or not, and if there is an emergency, an immediate and effective response depends on advance planning and agreements.
Specifically, the bill says that a) no lease for exploration in U.S. territory can be awarded to a company that drills in Cuban waters and fails to have a good emergency response plan with resources to carry it out, and b) the Administration is charged with talking to Mexico, Cuba, and the Bahamas to devise Gulf oil spill protection plans, which should include specific logistical arrangements for each party to the agreement.
We have such an agreement with Mexico, and each side has obligations in the case of a spill. When the BP spill occurred in U.S. waters, Mexico responded immediately, offering to deliver the assistance stipulated in our bilateral agreement.
Including Cuba in such an arrangement involves talks with the Castro Regime, which some in Florida will oppose. But if there’s a spill, the lack of an agreement means that emergency response would be a come-as-you-are party, with U.S. agencies and companies improvising. Good ideas would be bogging down in our bureaucracy and Cuba’s while more and more oil would be fouling Florida shores and fisheries day by day.
Senator Nelson’s bill amounts to a prod to the Administration, whose Interior Department simultaneously seeks to create a “gold standard” for Gulf environmental protection, is concerned about Cuba drilling, is talking to Repsol, and finds the idea of talking to Cuba “tricky.”
A spokesman for the State Department, which has the job of talking to foreign governments, told the Herald there have been no talks with Cuba, then he huffed and puffed:
“However, we expect any company operating in Cuba’s oil and gas sector to adhere to industry environmental, health, and safety standards and have adequate prevention, mitigation, and remediation systems in place in the event of an incident. We will pursue activities within our legal authority in order to minimize risk to U.S. territory.”
Those words are all well and good, but U.S. waters and shores will be better protected by the ideas in Senator Nelson’s bill.