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'Florida is safe'

Published June 15, 2005

WASHINGTON - Florida Sens. Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez announced Wednesday morning that they have reached an agreement with other senators to keep oil and gas drilling off Florida's coast.

"Florida is safe," Nelson said.

Nelson briefly stalled the Senate from considering an energy bill until he could get language to keep drilling off Florida's coast. Both Nelson and Martinez gave impassioned speeches on the Senate floor Tuesday afternoon about drilling.

The deal was reached late Tuesday night between Florida's senators and Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M., chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The agreement would keep the existing moratorium on oil and gas drilling in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic Ocean; it also would protect a large section of the Gulf, known as Area 181, that has not been protected but where there has been no drilling.

The Senate may still consider allowing drilling around the United States - as several states want - but Florida is protected, perhaps until 2012.

After stopping attempts to drill off the state's coast for two decades, Florida's lawmakers are facing an unprecedented number of congressional proposals aimed at opening more of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to drilling.

[Last modified June 15, 2005, 12:49:02]

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