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Surfers, Scientists Say No to Oil Drilling Off Florida Coast

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​Jesse Bull, a surfer with a tidy goatee, rides a four-foot wave to shore on a blustery South Beach day. In his black wetsuit, he gazes toward the crashing waves and then furrows his brow. "The ocean is important," he says. "Drilling would mess up our beaches."

Jesse is one of hundreds of South Floridians -- from biologists to hoteliers -- who oppose a Senate bill that would allow oil drilling near the Florida coastline. It would enable oil rigs to float three miles from shore and is on track to hit the floor next session, which begins March 3.

"Think about it," says Susan Lewis of the Earth Ethics Institute at Miami Dade College. "Spills are inevitable -- especially in hurricane season -- and it's going to be messy and smelly." On top of that, she says, "It's going to kill off half the things we're trying to research."

Dressed in black, 200 people linked hands a few blocks from South Pointe Park Saturday to make a statement: Drilling is not just an ecological problem. It's a brown stain on South Florida's tourism industry, which relies on pristine beaches.

Dubbed "Hands Across the Sand," the protest was organized by the Miami chapter of the Surfrider Foundation. About 50 more demonstrations went on across the state, from Key West to Pensacola.

The bill passed through the House last year, and state Rep. Dean Cannon of Winter Park told the Orlando Sentinel last week that the committee he leads is on track to filing the bill during the upcoming session. A spokesperson for Cannon told Riptide they are "reviewing it carefully."

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