Environmentalists attacked Florida’s Sen. Mel Martinez for backing a plan to open more of the Gulf of Mexico to drilling.
Environmentalists Tuesday stepped up criticism of a Senate measure to open the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling, running radio spots and newspaper ads that blast Florida’s Sen. Mel Martinez for signing off on the deal.
The radio spots and an ad in the Tampa Tribune come a week after Martinez and key senators announced a compromise that would open up eight million acres off the west coast of Florida to drilling, while barring rigs at least 235 miles off the coast at Tampa and Naples and at least 125 miles off the Panhandle.
Martinez, who was part of the negotiations, said last week he was ”thrilled and delighted” with the compromise and said it would protect Florida’s beaches. But environmentalists argue it would expose the state to “water pollution and potentially devastating spills.”
The full-page ad — with an image of an oil-soaked bird, asks, “Senator Martinez, You Don’t Really Want This Stain On Your Record, Do You?”
The ad ran Tuesday in the Tampa Tribune, credited to a coalition of groups, including the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Sierra Club.
The radio spot, which began airing Monday in Orlando, contrasts Martinez’s statements last fall opposing oil drilling with details of the Senate compromise.
The 60-second radio spot was paid for by Defenders of Wildlife Action.
Martinez dismissed the ads Tuesday, noting that “some people are so extreme in their views that no compromise will seem good enough.
”We held the line for a long time, but with the pressure growing, we concluded that it was best to make a deal that would protect Florida,” Martinez said.
Martinez’s Democratic counterpart, Sen. Bill Nelson, a candidate for reelection, has repeatedly said the two senators are ”joined at the hip” when it comes to opposing off-shore energy exploration.
However, Nelson has said he is reserving judgment on the legislation until he reviews the details.
The legislation, which Martinez said could come before the Senate next week, faces resistance in the House.