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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

One (oily one) for the road



Just three business days before the transfer of power, the Bush administration's Minerals Management Service issued a report calling for offshore oil and gas drilling as close as 10 miles from the Florida Panhandle.

The report released Friday provides a series of recommendations for increasing offshore oil and gas production and offshore wind energy production from 2010 through 2015. For the Gulf of Mexico off west central Florida, the agency proposes opening up everything more than 75 miles from shore to drilling, and it calls for having no permanent structures visible from land.

The report notes that Floridians increasingly have come to back offshore drilling, and that Republican Gov. Charlie Crist has said he would support it provided it had minimal environmental consequences. However, the report also notes that the eastern gulf is off-limits to oil and gas exploration through 2022 under a federal law enacted in 2006. The law must be modified to open the waters off west Florida to drilling.

“MMS has been working tirelessly to facilitate the responsible development of our domestic energy resources and expand our nation’s energy portfolio,” MMS director Randall Luthi said in a statement. “Today, we are presenting options to the next administration. The final decisions regarding the next steps are theirs.”

The MMS proposal would also open waters that are now closed off North Florida, Georgia and the Carolinas, the Mid-Atlantic states, New England and California.

You can find more information from the MMS here.

The agency estimates there are 86-billion barrels of oil and 420-trillion cubic feet of natural gas locked under U.S. waters that are now off-limits.

"We’re basically giving the next administration a two-year head start,” Luthi said. “This is a multistep, multiyear process with a full environmental review and several opportunities for input from the states, other government agencies and interested parties, and the general public.”


[Last modified: Tuesday, September 14, 2010 3:13pm]


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