- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 18, 2006


The House rejected attempts late last night to allow oil and natural-gas drilling in 85 percent of the country’s coastal waters, despite arguments that the supplies are needed to reduce energy costs.

Lawmakers from Florida and California led the fight to maintain the quarter-century-old drilling ban, contending that energy development as close as three miles from shore would jeopardize their tourism industries.

“It’s a grievous assault on Florida” and other coastal states, said Rep. Adam H. Putnam, Florida Republican, of attempts to end the drilling prohibitions that Congress first imposed in 1981 on most of the country’s coast and has reaffirmed every year since.

“This country has an energy crisis,” said Rep. John E. Peterson, Pennsylvania Republican, arguing for lifting the moratorium, which applies to virtually all coastal waters outside the western Gulf of Mexico, where most of the country’s offshore oil and gas wells are concentrated.

A measure, offered by Mr. Putnam and Rep. Lois Capps, California Democrat, to continue the prohibition on drilling for natural gas, which some lawmakers argued was less of an environmental threat than oil, was approved by a 217-203 vote and inserted into a $25.9 billion Interior Department spending bill.

Earlier, the House voted 279-141 to reject an attempt by Rep. Ted Poe, Texas Republican, to lift the moratorium as it applies to oil drilling.

The offshore drilling issue dominated much of the debate over the Interior spending legislation, which later passed.

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