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Nelson Moves to Extend Gulf Oil Drilling Ban

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson today filed a bill that would extend the moratorium on oil drilling off Florida's Gulf of Mexico coast. The move comes the day after the fifth anniversary of the BP oil spill. 

The bill would extend the moratorium on drilling at least 125 miles off Florida's Gulf Coast until 2027. The ban currently is in place until 2022, but last week, another senator from Louisiana moved to repeal it. The bill by Sen. Bill Cassidy would allow oil rigs at least 75 miles closer to Florida's western coastline.

So Nelson decided to counter that bill with one of his own. He described Florida as being "under siege by Big Oil."

"We're going to do everything that we can to make sure we don't lose another tourism season. We're going to do everything we can to make sure we don't lose an entire year for our fishermen," Nelson said in an address to the Senate.

"Drilling off the coast is not what the people of Florida want. We want fishing vessels hauling in prize catches, not Coast Guard vessels skimming oil. We want dolphins rolling in the waves, not washing ashore. And we want sunbathers on the beaches, not hazmat workers."

Nelson authored the legislation in 2006 to ban drilling between 125 and 235 miles off the state's Gulf Coast.

Nelson, who currently serves as the top Democrat on the Senate Commerce Committee, says he believes the Cassidy bill is timed to coincide with a new energy bill expected to be heavily slanted in favor of the oil industry that could come up for a vote soon, now that Republicans have regained control of the Senate.


Steve Newborn is a WUSF reporter and producer at WUSF covering environmental issues and politics in the Tampa Bay area.
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