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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

A weaker Florida gets drilling, a strong California does not



On oil drilling, Florida is hardly the wall of opposition it was only a few years ago. Democrats and Republicans now reflect the pro and con pull of the debate.

Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson cannot rely on interim Sen. George LeMieux (supports drilling, done safely) like he could Mel Martinez (opposed drilling). So Nelson apparently worked for what he could get -- a 125-mile buffer. Some say Nelson caved; others say he got a special deal. Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., issued a news release saying his state deserved the same as Florida.

At the state level, some Florida Republican lawmakers have embraced the "drill, baby, drill" mantra. They too were once mostly unified against the idea. Gov. Charlie Crist has switched positions as well. Even Democratic candidate for governor Alex Sink was ok with Obama's proposal, as long as the buffer means putting an end to GOP talk of drilling much closer.

That may not have kept Obama from trying to expand drilling in Florida, in the Gulf as well as the Atlantic coast, but it makes it easier. Contrast that to California (and Oregon and Washington), which will see no further oil exploration. "The area is too special," Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters. Golden State political muscle showed today.

[Last modified: Thursday, September 9, 2010 11:25am]


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