Friday, 08 December 2006 00:00
Drill PassageWritten by Terry Gildea
Congress passed legislation Friday that will expand drilling for oil and natural gas in the Gulf of Mexico. Republican Florida Senator Mel Martinez says he believes Florida beaches will be properly protected.
Eight-point-three million acres of Eastern Gulf will be opened up for new drilling leases. But Florida will have a 125 mile no-drilling zone off the state’s west coast. Senator Martinez helped craft protections for Florida in the bill. He says more drilling was inevitable.
"What we can do with this bill is provide a zone of protection so that that activity occurs in what we believe provides Florida the most buffer of any."
The House passed the Senate bill by slipping it into a larger tax extension bill that modified some regulations of Medicare. Fort Myers Republican Connie Mack, who has opposed drilling in the past, voted for the overall package. Supporters hope the legislation will increase domestic supplies of fuel and eventually ease prices for consumers.