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U.S. Rep. Buchanan Files Bills On Red Tide And Oil Drilling In Florida

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan, R-Sarasota, wants red tide forecasting to be included as essential work during federal government shutdowns through the Harmful Algal Bloom Essential Forecasting Act.

"It's really critical to Florida, especially when you look back, we had a 15-month timeframe where we had pretty intense red tide, all over water quality issues, so we just can't afford to be shut down," he said.

Back in 2019, as the Gulf Coast experienced a major red tide outbreak and Southwest Florida was suffering from blue-green algae blooms, there was a 35-day government shutdown that reportedly kept scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration at home, unable to monitor and track the algae.

"Tourism… has a big impact on Florida, our beaches. And the more information we have, the better we do. It also impacts a lot of jobs and small businesses, along the shorelines,” said Buchanan. “Red tide impacts downtown Sarasota, I'm sure cities all across the state."

Buchanan also teamed up with U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor, D-Tampa, to reintroduce the Florida Coastal Protection Act, which would permanently extend the oil drilling ban off Florida's coastlines. The current moratorium for the Gulf expires next year.

"I could just tell you I've been in Congress long enough that I know that there was a point where they were looking at drilling three miles off the beaches,” he said. “Our goal is frankly to work together… Democrats and Republicans work together to ban the drilling off our shores in Florida."

He expects most, if not all, of the 29 Florida members of Congress to be on board with both pieces of legislation.

“President Biden took action early in his tenure to pause new oil and gas leasing in public waters and launch a rigorous review of all existing leasing and permitting related to fossil fuel development – good news for Florida,” said Rep. Kathy Castor in a press release.

“But without Congressional action, we know that executive orders can be reversed. That’s why Congress must vote to fully protect Florida’s economy and environment – we overwhelmingly passed this bill last Congress, and it’s my hope, with a Democratic majority in the Senate, that we can get this bill to President Biden’s desk for signature. The future of our way of life depends on decisive action.”

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Jessica Meszaros is a reporter and host of Morning Edition at WUSF Public Media.