Congress approved a bill written by the Democratic leadership that would allow new, limited oil leasing in federal waters off the coast of the United States. The bill would allow new rigs in all federal waters 100 miles off the coast, and 50 miles off the coast in states open to new oil production. Florida’s Gulf Coast, however, would be entirely off limits.
Democrats reluctantly proposed the bill-which would lift a federal moratorium on new oil leasing in place off the California Coast since 1989-in response to intense political pressure generated by record prices at the gas pump. Republicans blasted the bill, however, contending new drilling needs to be allowed closer to shore than the Democrats want to allow. Republicans-led by President George Bush and presidential nominee John McCain-have been clamoring to lift the federal moratorium for the past several months. Federal projections indicate it would take about 15 years for new oil to come on the market as a result, and the effect at the pump would be pennies on the dollar, if at all.