WASHINGTON, D.C.-Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton today confirmed
that the Bush Administration proposal for new oil and gas leasing in the
Gulf of Mexico would not impact Florida waters. With the Nation facing
unprecedented energy challenges, Secretary of the Interior Gale A. Norton
today expressed her support for the proposed legislation that would allow
the Nation greater access to new oil and natural gas resources on the outer
continental shelf. At the same time it would allow coastal states to benefit
from the royalties received from oil and gas development off their coasts.
"The President respects the rights of states to determine what kind of
activities can take place off their coasts," said Norton. "Under the
Administration's proposal, 'Florida waters' would be determined for the
first time using legal principles upheld by the Supreme Court in cases
involving state boundaries. The Administration's proposal will protect these
Florida waters from new oil and gas leasing."
The President has committed to the people of Florida that there will be no
new oil and gas leasing offshore Florida and this proposal does not provide
for any new leasing in Florida's waters. In addition, Norton reiterated
that no new areas would be opened for leasing within 100 miles of the
Florida coast. "This proposal allows us to continue our commitment not to
lease in the area known as 'the stovepipe,'" she said.
The proposal allows for leasing a portion of the offshore area known as
"the Bulge," originally approved for leasing by the Clinton
administration and not under moratorium, and a deepwater area south of the
The proposal also benefits existing offshore energy producing states by
allowing them to share revenues from areas of new leasing offshore Louisiana
and Alaska. In the Gulf of Mexico, this proposal contemplates new areas in
the Eastern Gulf planning area that fall within Louisiana's seaward
boundaries and that are more than 100 miles offshore.
Under the legally accepted principle of "equidistance" used in the
drawing of seaward lateral boundaries, the portions where new leasing would
occur are off the coast of Louisiana, not Florida. At the nearest point, the
area is well over 100 miles from any point on the Florida coastline and more
than 250 miles from the west coast of the Florida peninsula. The deepwater
areas are even further away, in the middle of the Gulf of Mexico.
The draft is consistent with the Administration's pledge to only allow new
oil and gas leasing off of states that express support for it.
"The Administration believes that development of these unleased offshore
areas should be a partnership between the federal government and the
states," said Norton. "States that support new development in these
areas should benefit financially by sharing in the royalties from lease
sales, which could be used for important needs such as wetlands restoration
and environmental protection."
In 2001, the Senate overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to prohibit leasing
in portions of this Eastern gulf area. This was a bipartisan vote. Sen.
Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., said at the time: "It is 100 miles off the
coast. If you can't drill 100 miles out to sea, I don't know where you
The United States is facing unprecedented oil and gas prices. Motorists are
paying $2.30 a gallon for gas. Imports have risen sharply over the last two
decades while our domestic production has fallen. The Nation currently
imports nearly 60 percent of the petroleum it uses. "We are seeing the
effect of this growing imbalance in the rising cost of driving our cars,
heating and cooling our homes, and keeping manufacturing jobs in the United
States," said Norton.
Offshore energy development has a phenomenal safety record. Since 1975, the
offshore industry has a safety record of 99.999 percent meaning that only
.0001 percent of the oil produced has been spilled. In the past 35 years,
there has not been a significant oil spill from a platform in federal
waters. In fact, natural cracks in the seabed release more than 150 times
the amount of oil into the Gulf than is spilled from offshore platforms.