Drilling Bill Passes U.S. Senate

Florida is a step closer to knowing how near oil rigs may someday be to the state’s beaches.

The U.S. Senate passed a bill this week that would change regulations for oil and natural gas drilling off the state’s Gulf coast.

The proposal blocks rigs from waters within 235 miles from Tampa and Naples, and 125 miles from the Panhandle coastline. But now a compromise has to be worked out with backers of a version in the U.S. House.

Environmentalists like Holly Binns of the Florida Public Interest Research Group are concerned.

“The nightmare scenario is that the bill that Senator Martinez negotiates passes the Senate and then another drilling bill which is much worse, passed the House just a few weeks ago. And what happens is that those two bills will be negotiated together and anything could happen. We could have a really, incredibly bad bill that would bring drilling rigs just a few miles off Florida's coast. Nothing's guaranteed when you're talking about the U.S. Congress.”

The House version would open up much of the outer continental shelf to drilling, with rigs as close as 50 miles offshore.

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