SARASOTA – Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann said Sunday that she would consider oil and natural gas drilling in the Everglades if it can be done without harming the environment.
Bachman said the United States needs to tap into all of its energy resources no matter where they exist if it can be done responsibly.
"The United States needs to be less dependent on foreign sources of energy and more dependent upon American resourcefulness. Whether that is in the Everglades, or whether that is in the eastern Gulf region, or whether that's in North Dakota, we need to go where the energy is," she said. "Of course it needs to be done responsibly. If we can't responsibly access energy in the Everglades then we shouldn't do it."
In 2002, the federal government at the urging of President George W. Bush bought back oil and gas drilling rights in the Everglades for $120 million. Bachmann, who wants to get rid of the federal Environmental Protection Agency, said she would rely on experts to determine whether drilling can be done without harming the environment.
"No one wants to hurt or contaminate the earth. ... We don't want to harm our water, our ecosystems or the air. That is a minimum bar," she said.
"From there, though, that doesn't mean that the two have to be mutually exclusive. We can protect the environment and do so responsibly, but we can also protect the environment and not kill jobs in America and not deny ourselves access to the energy resources that America's been so blessed with."
The Minnesota congresswoman, who is seeking the GOP nomination to challenge President Barack Obama in 2012, is on a four-day swing through Florida, ending Monday in Miami.
At each stop she has said she wants to eliminate the "job-killing" EPA. She elaborated on the idea in an interview after rallying hundreds of enthusiastic supporters in Sarasota.
"We do have EPA's in each of the 50 states and I think that it's up to the states," she said. "The states have the right to develop their own environmental protections and regulations, as they all have."
She said she recognizes there is a federal role when environmental issues cross borders, but she added that a big problem with the EPA now is that it does not consider job creation or job losses as part of its role in enforcing regulations. She said the regulations it does have prevent businesses from being able to reasonably create a profit.
"If we create a new department that is focused on conservation and get rid of the EPA, that would send a strong signal about what our priorities are. We believe in conservation, but I also believe at the same time that the EPA has overstepped its bounds," Bachmann said.
Among other topics, Bachmann said the stock market drop after this summer's debt ceiling compromise demonstrated disappointment that Washington had not taken more significant steps to reduce spending.
"We need to get our house in order fairly quickly," she said. "What you saw with the markets was the markets reacting to the fact that Washington, D.C., did nothing to get its house in order."
She also said she would consider Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who took office earlier this year, as a running mate.
"Marco Rubio has the hallmarks of, I think, everything that a person would look for in a potential candidate. He's got so much going for him," Bachmann said, also naming South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint as another possibility.