A Spanish company drilling for oil and natural gas off Cuba's north coast has revived fears in Gulf Coast states of the 2011 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
Just 77 miles from Key West, and also close to the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, the company Repsol is drilling through 5,600 feet of water and 14,000 feet of rock.
The Deepwater Horizon spill totaled 4.9 million barrels of oil in the Gulf, damaging shorelines in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida. British Petroleum, which was leasing the offshore rig that exploded, has paid nearly $200 million in damages in the Keys alone.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the likelihood of any oil reaching the Florida Keys is low because the Gulf Stream current would carry the oil out into the Atlantic Ocean. But others worry that the U.S. has not altered its embargo against Cuba to allow U.S. vessels to respond to any spill in Cuban waters.
"Once oil is in the water, it's a mess," Roger Rufe, a retired Coast Guard vice admiral, told the Washington Post. "I'm not saying we shouldn't do it (offshore drilling), but we ought to go at it with our eyes open. We can't do it with a human-designed system and not expect that there will be occasional problems with it."
"I had actual visions of oil covering Florida Bay and the mangroves and all the fish being completely devastated," Richard Stancyzk, longtime owner of Bud N' Mary's Marina, where 45 fishing captains dock their boats in Islamorada, told the Miami Herald.
He added, "We were hurt financially, but I'd really like to sue BP for pain and suffering. It actually made me sick and nauseous."
Coast Guard officials in Key West say they are monitoring the Cuban drilling and have updated their contingency plans after the Deepwater Horizon spill.
by RTT Staff Writer
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