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Interior backs Senate's offshore-drilling plan

February 27, 2006 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 84, Issue 9

The Bush Administration "supports the goals" of bipartisan Senate legislation that would open up 3.6 million acres in the so-called Lease Sale 181 area of the Gulf of Mexico to drilling for oil and natural gas. In testimony before the Senate Energy & Natural Resources Committee on Feb. 16, Minerals Management Service Director Johnnie Burton said the bill "closely resembles" the Interior Department's proposed five-year leasing plan for the outer continental shelf. That plan would open up 2 million acres of the 181 area southwest of the Florida panhandle to energy development. Burton said production could begin in three to four years under either the Administration's plan or the legislation sponsored by Sens. Pete V. Domenici (R-N.M.) and Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.). The bill would provide access to an estimated 6 trillion cu ft of natural gas, which Domenici said would have a prompt impact on market prices. However, Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.), who opposes new offshore drilling, expressed concern that neither proposal would provide his state with sufficient protection. He is sponsoring a competing bill that would put all but 740,000 acres of the 181 area off-limits to oil and gas leasing.


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