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Florida State to host second symposium on offshore drilling

The energy needs of the United States and Florida's struggling economy are prompting a renewed consideration of oil and gas activity off the state's Gulf coast. As the Florida Legislature prepares to consider this issue, the Institute for Energy Systems, Economics and Sustainability (IESES) at The Florida State University is bringing together experts from around the nation to share their informed views on a variety of issues related to coastal drilling.

The Florida Symposium on Offshore Energy, Part II: "The Inshore Challenges of Offshore Energy Prospects" will be held Monday, Feb. 1, 2010, Turnbull Conference Center, on the Florida State campus.

The symposium is the second in a series scheduled to take place at Florida State. An earlier event, the Florida Symposium on Offshore Energy, Part I: Oil and Gas, was held last November. It examined several related issues, including the potential effects of oil and gas activity on the marine environment; the revenues that the state of Florida might expect as a result of offshore oil leasing; and the legal and policy challenges that the state could face as a result of new oil and gas activity in the Gulf of Mexico. Visit this link to view a video of the first symposium.

"Florida Senate President Jeff Atwater has recognized the need for a detailed and comprehensive review of the implications of offshore drilling so that lawmakers will be fully informed of the potential risks and rewards of such an endeavor," IESES director David Cartes said in explaining why his institute has organized the Florida Symposium on Offshore Energy series. (A statement from Atwater can be viewed here.)

Margaret Davidson

"Because this is such an important issue for the state, it is crucial to identify facts and information free of preconceived ideas," Cartes said. "The university system of Florida must play the role of an 'honest broker' in providing such analyses in an objective and unbiased manner."

The scheduled keynote speaker for the Feb. 1 symposium is Margaret Davidson, director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Coastal Services Center. Davidson has focused her professional work on environmentally sustainable aquaculture, mitigation of coastal hazards, and the effects of climate variability on coastal resources. She will speak on "Connecting Our Energy Needs with Ecosystem Sustainability."

Next, experts from various disciplines, including marine ecology, oceanography and environmental law, will participate in panel discussions that will consider how the unique ecological, spatial and legal issues of energy development could be managed in the coastal zone of Florida if offshore drilling were to occur. The specific topics for the panel discussions are as follows:

  • "Gulf Ecology — The Past, Present and Future Demands for Baseline Ecological Research in the Gulf of Mexico." This panel will focus on the ecological milieu of Florida's marine habitats, from the shore to the abyss. It will start with the historical context of ecological research conducted in the Gulf of Mexico as it relates to energy development. It continues with an exploration of the unique ecological characteristics of the West Florida Shelf and coastal zone while addressing the linkages between inshore and offshore waters. The panel ends with a focused talk on the consequences of energy exploration and development on marine mammals.
  • "Regulatory Waters — The Regulation of Offshore Energy and Its Ecological Impacts." This panel will explore the legal and policy framework for assessing, authorizing and mitigating environmental effects from oil, gas and renewable energy activity in Florida's Gulf waters and coastal areas. In addition to providing an overview of the legal regimes governing the marine environment, panelists will discuss environmental permitting systems for development and placement of facilities in offshore and onshore areas, as well as methods for "zoning" different uses in ocean and coastal waters.

Symposium attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions of both groups of panelists immediately following their discussions, as well as in a concluding plenary session. In addition, a reception with the panelists, featuring hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar, will be held immediately following the plenary session.

Members of the public are invited to attend the symposium; early registration is $45 if completed by Friday, Jan. 22, and $50 if completed between Saturday, Jan. 23, and the day of the symposium. To register online, visit Please note that seating is very limited.

Parking for the event is free and available on the first floor of the parking garage located adjacent to the Turnbull Conference Center. (A parking attendant will be stationed at the entrance behind the conference center on West St. Augustine Street to direct attendees to available parking.)

In addition to IESES, the Florida Symposium on Offshore Energy is sponsored by the Florida State University Office of Research; the Environmental and Land Use Law Program at the College of Law; and the departments of Oceanography and Biological Sciences and the Tallahassee Democrat.

The Institute for Energy Systems, Economics and Sustainability is a public resource dedicated to addressing energy alternatives through academic research and analysis in engineering, science, infrastructure, governance and society. It brings together researchers with backgrounds in engineering, natural sciences, law, urban and regional planning, geography and economics. The institute is the state's leading scholarship center looking at the informed governance, economics and decision making to support a sustainable-energy economy.

By Barry Ray

"Because this is such an important issue for the state, it is crucial to identify facts and information free of preconceived ideas."

David Cartes
Institute for Energy Systems, Economics and Sustainability (IESES)