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Florida lawmaker fending off calls for oil and gas drilling

The Consumer Energy Alliance tells Florida Sen. Bill Nelson to end an offshore drilling moratorium.

By Daniel J. Graeber
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., says he's determined to keep western state waters off limits to oil and gas drillers. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/0d96cebd9355679e79698d4fdea9be3e/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., says he's determined to keep western state waters off limits to oil and gas drillers. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

April 12 (UPI) -- Amid calls for more oil and gas drilling, a Democratic senator in Florida said he was "beating back" pressure for exploration in the Gulf of Mexico.

Industry groups like the American Petroleum Institute have praised executive orders from President Donald Trump that favor the oil and gas industry. With changes in Washington, Kevin Doyle, the Florida director of the Consumer Energy Alliance, said in a message sent to UPI that he called on state leaders to evaluate the potential for oil and gas exploration in the waters off the western coast of Florida.

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By Doyle's estimates, state coffers could be bolstered for the benefit of Florida residents struggling with medical bills and dwindling pensions.

"A strong and growing constituency in Florida supports understanding how energy development could help lower their month expenses and improve their standard of living," Nelson said in a letter to Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla. "We ask you to work with Florida's families and business leaders to find the balance between environmental protection and security energy independence that we know can happen for the benefit of all Floridians and Americans."

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Nelson helped push bipartisan legislation in 2006 that banned oil and drilling in the state waters of the Gulf of Mexico through 2022. A measure introduced in January calls for an extension of that moratorium for another five years.

Nelson's original bill was enacted in part to ensure the coastal environment in Florida is protected from oil spills. In 2015, a bipartisan measure was introduced to ensure any foreign party responsible for an oil spill would cover cleanup costs should contamination reach U.S. territory.

In 2012, Mexican regulators said they didn't have effective plans in place to deal with an offshore oil spill. With diplomatic doors opening to Cuba, Florida lawmakers at the time said concerns were evolving as Havana reviews its offshore oil potential.

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Officials at the community level were cited by local media as saying few Florida constituents were actually in favor of drilling in the Gulf of Mexico. According to political website Saint Peters Blog, Nelson said he was determined to keep Florida waters off limits to oil and gas companies.

"Increasingly we have threats to drill in the Gulf of Mexico off the west coast of Florida, and it's getting to the point that I have to keep beating back these attempts," he was quoted as saying.

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