Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
For Immediate Release: July 23, 2005
Tina Kreisher, 202-208-6416

Secretary Norton: Administration Proposal
Protects Florida from New Oil and Gas Leasing

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 "Bulge."

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 can drill."

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.


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