End run around Florida


Published: Saturday, January 21, 2006 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Friday, January 20, 2006 at 11:51 p.m.
The Bush administration keeps trying to drill holes into the moratorium that keeps Florida's offshore waters closed to oil and gas drilling. But political resistance to offshore drilling runs so deep in this state that measures to expand exploration areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico keep getting blocked in Congress.
But now the Interior Department is drawing new offshore boundary lines that would have the effect of moving millions of acres of Gulf of Mexico sea bottom out of Florida's control and into Louisiana's sphere of influence.
The reason: Louisiana is bullish on offshore drilling. By redrawing jurisdictional lines, drilling rigs could be permitted within 100 miles of Florida's coast.
Even Gov. Jeb Bush, who supported the last drilling proposal before Congress that would reduce Florida's moratorium area, says he opposes this end run by the Interior Department. And U.S. Sen. Mel Martinez, R-Fla., calls it "an attempt by the administration to hide behind the bureaucracy of the Interior Department to gradually weaken the federal moratorium protecting Florida's outer continental shelf."
Congress ought to make it clear, with legislation if necessary, that the ban against drilling in Florida's offshore waters can't be loosened by an act of politics or an act of bureaucracy.

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