Florida Keys environmentalists act to protect against BP oil spill summer 2010


Mission statement from the FKEC: "The mission of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition is to coordinate and support organizations, businesses and individuals, who work to protect the coral reefs and ecosystems of the Florida Keys and to provide a unified voice for our community.within our island environment, do everything we can to protect it."

Time period notes

Campaign slowed in August when currents changed and the oil spill was no longer projected to hit the Florida keys

Time period

May, 2010 to August, 2010


United States

Location City/State/Province


Location Description

Florida Keys towns, especially Key West Marathon and Islamorada
Jump to case narrative

Methods in 1st segment

Methods in 4th segment

Methods in 5th segment

Methods in 6th segment

Additional methods (Timing Unknown)

Segment Length

2 weeks

Notes on Methods

The creation of the Florida Keys Environmental Coalition was the main act of direct action. The coalition was created in response to the slow reaction of BP and the coastguard to citizen concerns about the approaching oil spill


Dan Robey, Lara Fox, Patrick Rice, George Bellenger, Ed Russo


Reef Relief, Florida Keys Community College, Wyland Foundation

External allies

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, City of Marathon, Village of Islamorada, Key Colony Beach City

Involvement of social elites

not known


British Petroleum

Nonviolent responses of opponent

None know.

Campaigner violence

None known.

Repressive Violence

None known.





Groups in 2nd Segment

Reef Relief
Florida Keys Community College

Groups in 4th Segment

City Of Marathon
Village of Islamorada
Key Colony Beach City
City of Key West

Segment Length

2 weeks

Success in achieving specific demands/goals

1 out of 6 points


1 out of 1 points


3 out of 3 points

Total points

5 out of 10 points

Notes on outcomes

The Florida Keys Environmental Coalition never stated its goals in a measurable way. The coalition was formed, however, to work to provide an alternative structure of disaster preparedness when it seemed like the Coast Guard and BP were not meeting expectations. Although the group organized, their participation was banned in many cases. Even after gaining support of several municipalities, there has been no demonstrated change in coast guard or national policy that may apply in future disasters. Additionally, the success is difficult to rate because the original threat, that is oil from the Deepwater Horizon spill coming to the keys, never materialized.

Database Narrative

Following the explosion and
sinking of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig, operated by BP, millions of gallons
of crude oil leaked into the Gulf of Mexico. The Unified Command, a team
comprised of BP, the U.S. Coast Guard, and several U.S. federal departments,
was officially placed in command of the response to the spill. As the Unified
Command deployed emergency measures in the north of the Gulf - including the
use of oil booms, chemical dispersants and the shutting down of fisheries-
Floridians living on the coast worried that the Loop Current could bring oil
from the north their way, threatening sensitive corals, mangroves and beaches. The
Florida Keys especially were at risk for environmental degradation.

            Dan Robey, a
Florida Keys native set up the website KeysSpill.com in May. By the 22nd,
over 2,200 local volunteers had registered, pledging to help with cleanup
efforts. Some volunteers began to clean debris off of beaches, which, if coated
with crude, would become hazardous material. Additionally, 300 boat captains
offered the use of their vessels. At that time it was thought that the oil
could hit the keys within a week.

             Under the Unified Command system, boat
captains had to register with the Vessels of Opportunity program in order to
participate in cleanup efforts. Dan Robey and others expressed concern to BP
that only a third of the 7,200 boats under contract in the program were in
active service and that the response to the approaching oil was too slow. The
Florida Keys Environmental Coalition (FKEC) formed in order to reclaim some
control of planning for a response to the spill. FKEC’s main leaders were: Lara
Fox, a charter boat captain and longtime environmental activist; Patrick Rice,
dean of Marine Science and Technology at the Florida Keys Community College;
and George Bellenger, a local boat captain. FKEC gained support from Reef
Relief and the Community College. Robey’s website became the central hub for
the coalition to gather volunteers and plan events.

In late May, Bellenger found
out about a closed meeting between BP and local officials. He and other
activists went to the meeting to complain about the lack of preparation efforts
by BP in case the oil came to the Florida Keys. At that meeting BP promised to pay
$10,000 for hazmat training for 100 local people.

            In early June BP
also hired a towboat to act as a sentry and keep a lookout for possible
approaching oil.

            The community
college planned a bird cleaning class for locals on 12-13 to be run by
Save our Seabirds (SOS, Inc). On June 5th, the coalition received
news that BP gave the contract for cleaning seabirds to Tri-State Bird Rescue
and Research and that Tri-State was not accepting help from other wildlife
responders. Patrick Rice of the FKEC argued that Save our Seabirds had a better
save-record than Tri-State in previous oil spills and that trained community
members should be allowed to participate in protecting their own lands.

            In response to
the news about the bird cleaning regulations, FKEC organized the “Sea to Still
Shining Sea” demonstration in Key West on 7 June. Hundreds of
people dressed in blue gathered to link hands on Duval Street, which crosses
the entire 4-mile-long island from the Gulf to the Atlantic Ocean. The act was
branded as a peaceful demonstration to show that “they may pollute our oceans,
they may pollute our seas, but they will not stop us from stepping in and
saving our own wildlife”.

            Also on or about 7 June Dan Robey and other members of the FKEC met in a town-hall
style meeting with BP. Members of the FKEC explained that they wanted to help
and to have a proactive plan in place, rather than being reactive.

            On 17 June the FKEC hosted a community rally and locals were interviewed by CBS broadcast news. Dan Robey
and others passed out fliers about volunteering with the FKEC. The website had
collected more than 4000 volunteers by this date, many of whom signed up to
take hazmat training. BP said that locals were not allowed to organize a
preemptive response until oil was within 72 miles of the coastline.

            Several weeks
later on 22 July, the City of Marathon, a keys community, passed
legislation demanding that the Unified Command system hear recommendations from
the FKEC, which by this time had built a strong force of scientists from the
college. On 22 July the Village of Isamorada and Key Colony Beach
City also endorsed FKEC in “research,
improved defense techniques, emergency operation coordination deployment of
protection systems, strategies, and tactics and as a significant idea and
implementation leader for a community defense strategy.”

            In late July models no longer
predicted that the Loop Current would bring oil to the Florida Keys due to
changing patterns in the eddy. The FKEC continued to organize preparedness for
secondary effects of the spill by promising to continue to test local waters
for oil-related toxins in the coming months and years as well as to continue to
coordinate efforts between organizations and individuals working on projects to
protect local ecosystems. Although the threat of the BP oil-spill was not
realized in the Keys, the coalition still continued to be prepared to coordinate
local action in the face of another disaster. However, although it has been
endorsed by local municipalities, there is no evidence that national level
structures in disaster response have changed in a way that would incorporate
more local voices in the future. 




Name of researcher, and date dd/mm/yyyy

Lee McClenon 24/09/2013