Key U.S. Senator wants to drill 45 miles off of Florida's Gulf coast

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While on the federal level, environmentalists who were steamed at President Obama's announcement last month that he wants to explore drilling within 125 miles of Florida's coast won't be pleased to hear that a powerful Senate Democrat, North Dakota's Byron Dorgan, wants to drill closer.

Dorgan is chairman of the Appropriations Committee's Subcommittee on Energy and Water Development.  He wants a 45-mile buffer zone between oil rigs and the coast, telling the Hill yesterday:

"The estimates are that the 125-mile (buffer) would get about two-thirds of the energy that is there. Those are estimates based on 30-year-old studies. I think a more appropriate one is 45 miles but you know, I commend the president for moving as he's moved and I would hope that we have an opportunity to consider even more," Dorgan said. "A 45-mile zone is a better approach because you get more energy out of that and you still have the proper safeguards for a visual line of sight and so on. But again, I think he's moved in the right direction and I commend him for that."

It will be interesting to see how this plays out.  Republicans like Newt Gingrich and Sarah Palin, you might remember, were not impressed when President Obama made his announcement three weeks ago about calling for offshore drilling, saying his overall lack of urgency on the matter means it was  less "drill baby, drill" than "delay, baby, delay."

Any day now, incoming Florida House Speaker Dean Cannon (R-Winter Park) is expected to introduce a bill calling for drilling for oil and natural gas within state waters, which run from 3 to 10 miles off the coast.

Coming as late at is is in the session is eerily similar to last year when a similar proposal was introduced and gained steam in the waning days and weeks of the session.

Some political analysts have surmised that with Senate President Jeff Atwater still in control, nothing serious would happen with such legislation this year, as Atwater, who is running for Chief Financial Officer, has expressed serious doubts about any such proposal and has the ability to stop such a bill from coming to the floor.

But it does mean that drilling supporters aren't giving up, despite news last week that the Coast Guard was working to contain 18,000 gallons of oil that spilled from a pipeline along the Delta National Wildlife Refuge at the mouth of the Mississippi River. 

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