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Bill Nelson vows to block Senate bill allowing oil drilling off Florida Gulf Coast

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U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson pledged to use “every possible procedural move” to prevent legislation opening areas off the Florida Gulf Coast to offshore drilling.

In a letter to Senate leadership on Thursday, the Florida Democrat voiced his opposition to a vote by the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, which narrowly approved a GOP-backed offshore oil drilling measure. The brief letter went to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, a Republican, and Minority Leader Harry Reid, the Senate’s leading Democrat.

The committee vote, 12-10 along party lines, would allow oil and gas rigs to operate as close as 50 miles off Florida’s Gulf Coast.

If passed, Nelson said the proposal would undo four decades of protections for the Gulf Coast.

“There’s currently a no-drilling zone extending 125 miles off most of that coastline and as far out as 235 miles at some points to protect vital military training areas in the eastern Gulf of Mexico,” Nelson said in a statement.

That moratorium, made possible through legislation co-authored by Nelson in 2006, is in effect until 2022. The Senate measure seeks to repeal it, leading the Florida senator to announce his intention to stop any legislation that repeals the moratorium

“If any measure to repeal the current moratorium on offshore drilling in the eastern Gulf of Mexico comes before the full Senate for a vote, I will use all available procedural options to block it,” Nelson wrote.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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