Last week, the House of representatives’ Interior Appropriations committee passed an an amendment by Pennsylvania Congressman John Peterson which would strip the words “natural gas� from the moratorium which protects Florida’s coasts from new offshore drilling operations. If passed into law, it would mean that drilling could occur off all of the nations coasts—3 miles off the Atlantic coast, and 9 miles off of Florida’s gulf coast. Its only the latest attempt by members of congress to drill for oil of gas near Florida, and today members of Florida’s house delegation held a conference call with reporters, to outline the reasons why this proposal is bad for Florida and to advance their own proposal.

ACT-Davis “This bill is the most aggressive I’ve seen in congress..�

Tampa Bay area congressman Jim Davis said the economic impact to Florida of drilling for gas or oil on Florida would be horrendous.

ACT-Davis ‘These energy companies say its safe and clean, I want to see where they are on vacation..’

Davis said the energy companies have already accessed 80% of the known reserves and have access to 4,000 leases, which they haven’t even tapped into. Athan Manuel, with the US Public interest research group’s Education Fund's Arctic Wilderness Campaign said that further drilling will harm the environment and will not even help with the country’s growing energy needs.

ACT-- Athen “A point by rep is currently in the would threaten..

The interior appropriations bill is expected to come up for a vote in the house on Thursday of Friday of this week. Florida congressman Robert Wexler said the proposal is an assault on the quality of life enjoyed by Floridians, and he said it needs to be opposed strongly by all of Florida’s members of congress.

ACT-Wexler “There is a bi-partisan understanding that the fl delegation will oppose this effort, but we need to go further than that in caucuses and make it known that the vote is critical to Florida. WE need to leverage our votes on many other issues.�

When asked by a reporter Wexler did not name any specific bills which members should use as a bargaining chip, but he added that it will take more than just members of congress to take a stand.

ACT-Wexler “There’s a role for governor Bush to take as well…the intensity of our effort will weigh on peoples minds..unless they see enormous capital..�

Its only the latest attempt to open up Florida’s gulf coast to drilling, but this one is unique in that it would allow drilling off the coasts off all of the coastal States; Jim Davis said its gained traction because of the rising price of gas.

ACT-Davis “The vote in the committee changed and people have been convinced that it will help with gas prices..�

But Carol Browner, the former Environmental Protection Agency administrator, and currently the chair of the board of the national Audubon society, said that those seeking to use the rising cost of gas to justify drilling for oil in the gulf are being disingenuous.

ACT-Browner “Even if the companies went through with this, you still wouldn’t see any oil for 7 years..’

Republican Representative Mark Foley was scheduled to take part in the conference call, but did not show up, leaving only the two democrats to speak about how representatives from both parties are united. Wexler said that’s not representative of who cares about the issue.

ACT-Wexler “This is not partisan, delegation is unite, but the process is led by republican…so there are obligations are to reps to say why they have let it happen..�

There are already al least 4 Florida co-sponsors to an amendment, which would strike Petersons provision, and instead reinstitute the moratorium on drilling of Florida’s coast that has endured for the past 25 years.

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