Thursday, July 13, 2006

Senate sends House's offshore drilling bill back in attempt at a compromise

The Senate pushed for a more restrictive form of the House's bill in the name of eco-conservation

WASHINGTON -- Senate leaders produced a compromise on offshore oil and gas drilling Wednesday that they hoped would satisfy lawmakers in Florida and other coastal areas who fear for their tourist-based economies.

The deal would limit new offshore development _ outside the central and western Gulf of Mexico _ to an area of the eastern Gulf known as Lease Area 181 and protect waters within 125 miles of the Florida coast.

[...] The House-passed bill would end, beyond 50 miles, the quarter-century drilling moratorium that has been in effect in virtually all waters outside of the central and western Gulf of Mexico, although it would give states a way to maintain the drilling ban if they chose.

[...] The Lease Area 181, which is 100 miles south of the Florida Panhandle, is not formally under the congressional drilling moratorium, but there have been no lease sales under an agreement between the Bush administration and Florida.

The Senate's bill would open 8 million acres of land for drilling and goes a step further in revenue sharing. The House's bill would have given the states 50-75% of the royalties, and the Senate's bill proposes 37.5% to the states, 12.5% into a "conservation fund" (yippee), and 50% to the federal government.

It's not as good as the House bill, but it might be passable. And as long as they've left themselves the room to grow that area later, we may have to take it. It's the best way to avoid dependence on OPEC's oil.

The next step is going to be turning to nuclear power...