Nelson seeks no-compromise clause on drilling
With the U.S. Senate set to debate offshore drilling this week, Sen. Bill Nelson of Florida wants to make sure the upper house gets the last word.
The state’s senior senator filed legislation Monday that would forbid the Senate from negotiating with the U.S. House on drilling for oil and natural gas — a provision the Democrat said would ensure greater protections for the Florida’s coastlines.
But the measure faces a dim prospect in Congress.
Last week, Pete Domenici of New Mexico, chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, unveiled a plan that would allow drilling in 8.3 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico but prohibit exploration at least 125 miles from most of Florida’s western shoreline. Florida’s other senator, Republican Mel Martinez, helped negotiate the buffer.
It’s a far cry from the expansive House bill, which passed in June with broad support. That measure would allow drilling off the entire U.S. coastline but would give states a 50-mile buffer from rigs, which state legislatures could extend to 100 miles.
Nelson’s amendment, if accepted, would prohibit the Senate from negotiating with the House on drilling and ask the lower body to approve the Domenici plan in its entirety if it passes the Senate.
Congressional powerbrokers have been skeptical of the no-compromise clause.
When Senate leaders announced they struck an offshore drilling deal earlier this month, Nelson said he would support the plan only if its backers agreed not to work with the House — a condition not guaranteed by Domenici or Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, R-Tenn.
His provision hasn’t resonated in the House either. Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Calif., a main backer of the House plan, has dismissed suggestions to do away with negotiations.