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Gulf Drilling Reduced

Bowing to pressure from Floridians, environmentalists and members of Congress, Interior Secretary Gale Norton on Monday announced a compromise plan that will keep any new oil drilling at least 100 miles from the shores of the Sunshine State.

The plan could be a political victory for Gov. Jeb Bush, who has found himself pitted against his brother?s oil-friendly administration in an effort to keep rigs away from the coast of Florida, according to the Sun-Sentinel.

Democrats, though, immediately assailed the plan as just the beginning of expanded oil drilling in the Gulf. They said offshore drilling would eventually creep within sight of Florida?s economically important and environmentally sensitive coastline. The new proposal calls for leasing in 1.47 million acres in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, 100 miles south of the Alabama-Florida border and 285 miles west of Tampa.

The area represents about a quarter of the 5.9 million acres of the original plan, known as the Lease 181 tract, worked out by former Gov. Lawton Chiles and former President Clinton.

"There is not going to be drilling from any lease sale off Florida," Gov. Bush told reporters in a conference call from Kennebunkport, Maine. "I call this a win for the people of Florida."
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