One of the things that probably kept Florida’s new senator, Mel Martinez, too busy to notice his staff writing memos was his vote to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. He claimed he sold out Alaska in order to save Florida, but the state’s other senator, Bill Nelson, scoffed and said all Mel did was take credit for protection that was set to expire anyway.
Nelson continues trying to get real preservation.
Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Melbourne, sent a tersely worded letter to Interior Secretary Gale Norton on Thursday…
In the letter, Nelson complained that Norton failed to respond to a previous request from him and that her staff had been dismissive of his inquiries.
“I’m surprised you haven’t responded directly, and that your staff seems to feel it would be a waste of our time to discuss the issue before you make your decision,” Nelson wrote.
Nelson wants Norton to say that a large chunk of the eastern Gulf of Mexico, south of Pensacola and west of Tampa, will be included in the moratorium on new drilling off the Florida coast that expires in 2012.
But wait a minute, didn’t Mel already bag that?
Triggering Nelson’s concern are recent media accounts that reported the Interior Department plans to include the area in the comprehensive five-year oil and gas leasing program that covers 2007 to 2012.
“They are starting to develop the leasing plan now,” said Mark Ferrulo, director of Florida PIRG (Public Interest Research Group), which for years led opposition to drilling off Florida’s coast.
The issue is being raised as Congress attempts to craft an energy bill which includes nothing about conservation but plenty of tax breaks for the energy industry. South Florida Sun-Sentinel:
The House voted to dispense billions of dollars of tax breaks for energy producers, rejected new standards for fuel efficiency and approved relatively few incentives to develop alternative energy sources. One of the most controversial provisions would shelter from liability the makers of a gasoline additive that is polluting water supplies…
The bill would provide $8.1 billion of tax breaks over 10 years, mostly for oil, natural gas, coal and nuclear industries. It also calls for $2 billion to fund research into oil and gas recovery in deep waters in the Gulf of Mexico.