CLEARWATER - The Clearwater City Council at its work session Monday heard a presentation from Chuck Warrington, director of the city owned Clearwater Gas, who wound up backing drilling in the Gulf of Mexico.
He asked the council to consider taking a stand on the issue of exploring the Gulf of Mexico for natural gas by issuing a statement to show city support of seeking alternative resources, a concept Gov. Jeb Bush favors.
Warrington said, “We expect elevated winter gas supply prices to result in increases in the typical residential customers' bills of about 30 percent this winter compared to last winter. I am asking you to support the concept of increased exploration off the continental shelf, particularly for natural gas, which is the most environmentally friendly energy resource that we have in America.”
Citing the high cost of petroleum and Florida's unique position as possessor of several alternative energy sources, Warrington further encouraged the council to consider supporting off shore drilling because, "Our gas prices are much too high.”
He added, “There's no real reason for it as our country has a vast natural gas supply. The increase is passed on directly to the consumer. We don't make a profit on it, but we feel that it is important for us to do all that we can to hold these costs down for our customer."
Warrington said vast reserves of oil and gas are available off our shores and much of the infrastructure is already in place. "We just haven't opened it up as yet."
Warrington said it is suspected that there is much more natural gas available offshore than is realized. In support of this, he said that the last study was performed in 1974 and since then we have produced three times more than was estimated at that time, and “we now estimate that almost five times more is remaining.”
He said, “The more we explore, the more we know.”
Vice mayor Bill Jonson agreed that exploring long term energy source alternatives need to have a higher national priority, and said he is not comfortable with the council speaking out on a national issue of such proportions, quickly.
Jonson said, “This is bigger than a city issue. I don’t mind us as a gas utility giving commentary but if you are asking us to make a statement on a state or national scope, we would require a lot more information.”
The council also indicated approval for renewal of an agreement with the Florida Commission on Community Service, also known as AmeriCorps.
Police Chief Sid Klein said, “Economic redevelopment has changed the face of downtown. AmeriCorps provides additional services. They saved us 180 hours of officer time, allowing us to spend more time in other functions. It’s a good deal.”
AmeriCorps members have been serving as Clearwater ambassadors for 11 years and aid the community by providing public education on crime prevention and homeland security, assisting school resource officers at local schools, and conducting safety patrols of parks and trails.
Citizenship or legal permanent resident alien status is required of Americorps members. The minimum qualifications needed to become a member are a high school Diploma or GED, age of 18 years or older, a valid Florida driver's license and ability to pass criminal background checks and mandatory drug screenings.
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