Q&A: Protecting Florida’s Beaches, Our Tourism Economy and Military Operations

By: David Hart

Q: What coastal protections does Florida currently have regarding offshore energy production?


A: Until January 2022, offshore oil and gas drilling is prohibited by federal law from taking place east of the Military Mission Line or within 125 miles of Florida’s Gulf Coast. Oil and gas drilling are prohibited by state law from taking place within 3 nautical miles of Florida’s Atlantic Coast and the Florida Straits. In 2018, Florida residents voted to implement a constitutional amendment that would prohibit any oil and gas development in all state waters.

Q: How does the 2018 voter approved constitutional ballot measure impact oil and gas development in Florida waters?


A: In 2018, Florida voters approved a prohibition of exploration and extraction of oil or natural gas beneath all state waters that lie between the mean high-water line and the outermost boundaries of the state’s territorial seas. The constitutional prohibition does not apply to the transportation of oil and gas, nor does it prohibit extraction outside of Florida’s state boundaries. This is an important distinction because not all the coastal water visible from Florida’s shore is Florida’s to regulate. Much of it is under federal protection and purview.

Q: Is it true that starting in 2022, the state of Florida will only have the ability to restrict offshore energy development in its own waters?


A: The current federal moratorium on oil and gas development off of Florida’s Gulf Coast will expire in June 2022. Unless a new agreement is reached or law enacted, Florida will only be able to restrict energy development to Florida waters. That is why the Florida Chamber is insisting on an agreement.

Protecting Florida’s Tourism:

Q: How far out in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean do Florida state waters reach?


A: Florida state waters extend from the shore to at least 3 nautical miles out in the Atlantic and from the shore to 9 nautical miles out in the Gulf of Mexico.

Q: How far into the waters off Florida’s beaches can you see?


A: If you’re standing on the average Florida beach, you can see a little over 3 miles out into the ocean. If you’re on the 10th floor of a Florida beachfront hotel, you can generally see about 15 miles out. If you’re on a balcony at Miami’s 85-story Panorama Tower (Florida’s tallest building), you can see about 38 miles out into the ocean.

Q: What is tourism’s economic impact on Florida’s economy?


A: Florida’s world-class, tourism-based economy supports 1.4 million jobs and brings more than $90 billion to Florida each year. Last year more than 124.6 million people visited Florida, and an additional 50 million will visit us annually in future years.

Protecting Florida’s Military:

Q: How does the United States military utilize Florida’s waters?


A: Missions utilizing the Eastern Gulf of Mexico include research activity, technology demonstrations, air-to-air and air-to-ground (surface) missile testing (including the use of drone targets), combat surface ship qualification trials, mine warfare testing and training, and explosive ordnance disposal training.

Q: Who oversees Florida’s military operations? Do the Department of Defense, and the Department of Interior (the federal agency which oversees offshore energy development) coordinate to ensure that military training is not impaired?


A: The U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Department of Interior coordinate and have established strict safety standards under a 1983 memorandum of agreement, which ensures that the military’s critical missions are not impaired by commercial or recreational activities. These standards have been successfully protecting both military operations and civilian activity in federal waters for decades.

Q: How big of an economic impact does the military play in Florida’s economy?


A: The military and defense sectors contribute $84.9 billion annually to Florida’s economy.

What Other States are Doing:

Q: How are Florida’s neighboring states reacting to offshore energy production?


A: The economies of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama are strongly tied to the jobs directly and indirectly created by the offshore energy industry. These states have seen offshore development off their coast for more than 60 years. Additionally, these states receive a portion of federal revenue from the proceeds of offshore lease sales. Louisiana received a total of $94.7 million in funding in 2018, while Texas, Mississippi and Alabama received $57.9 million, $31.7 million and $30.6 million respectively.

To learn more, read Florida is Special. Let’s Keep it That Way, or contact David Hart at dhart@flchamber.com.