Florida missed an exceptional opportunity last year to ensure that no oil or gas exploration took place within 150 miles of most of its coast or within Eglin Air Force Base's Gulf test ranges. But instead of choosing to protect our shores and our military from oil companies, some members of the Florida delegation chose to ensure their reelection in 2006.
With the rising cost of petroleum and natural gas, Congress looks at the Gulf of Mexico as the nation's future energy supply. Over time this political pressure has strengthened and on December 8, 2006, Congress passed H.R. 6111, the Tax Relief and Health Care Act of 2006, which included a provision to expand off shore drilling by 8.3 million acres in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. This language is identical to the Senate's offshore drilling bill, S. 3711. Although I would prefer to address the OCS issue individually, House leadership decided to attach the language to a large tax extenders bill which included state sales tax deductibility for Florida, among many other tax breaks. It is for this reason that I voted "yes."
The bill, which is now law, reopens lease sales in Area 181 and an area just to its south, Area 182. Fortunately the bill language protects Florida's shores with a 100 mile buffer on the Gulf side and prevents any activity east of the military mission line, where Eglin Air Force Base tests and evaluates weapons systems. However, the bill leaves vulnerable Florida's east coast and the Straits of Florida for drilling. Four Gulf Coast states, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama benefit greatly from this legislation. Those states will receive 37.5 percent of royalties from new production with another 12.5 percent going to the state portion of the federal Land and Water Conservation Fund and the remaining 50 percent will go to the federal government. I am very disappointed that Florida was not included in the revenue sharing provisions.
With regards to the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, I support the drilling in ANWR, which is currently one of the most promising U.S. onshore oil and gas exploration and development prospects. Congress set this section of ANWR aside in 1980 so that it could be studied for its oil and gas potential. A provision in H.R. 6, The Energy Policy Act of 2005, that would have allowed oil and gas exploration on only 12,000 surface acres of the refuge, less than one percent of the coastal plain, was stripped from the final bill. The drilling language was once again added into the 2006 Department of Defense Appropriations bill, but unfortunately the Senate stripped the language from the bill before final passage.