Senate Agrees to Open Gulf to Oil Drilling

Tampa, FL -

The law was signed earlier this month by President Bush. It opens more than eight million acres of the eastern-central Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural drilling. It also bans drilling closer to Florida's Gulf Coast for twenty years.

The bill was opposed by three of Florida's Congressman, including outgoing Tampa Representative Jim Davis. He said it didn't do enough to promote the use of alternative energy sources.

But both of the state's U.S. Senators have backed the bill, saying the nation needs new sources of energy. Senator Mel Martinez praised the bill for keeping drilling at least 250 miles from Tampa Bay.

MARTINEZ : What we see is this bill protects Florida by providing a buffer that is more 120 miles south of the Panhandle and as much as 247 miles west of Tampa Bay area. So I think it's vitally important for Floridians.

Opponents say it could eventually open the door to drilling closer to the Gulf Coast. But backers say for the first time, it puts into writing a ban in coastal waters.

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