Debate over offshore drilling may hold up Kempthorne’s confirmation

A Bush administration plan to open 2 million acres in the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling has created rifts in Congress and may hold up Dirk Kempthorne’s confirmation as interior secretary. The sentimentally named “Area 181,” south of Pensacola, Fla., is estimated to have resource capacity to gas a million cars and heat more than 500,000 homes over the next 15 years. Lawmaker opinions vary widely; Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) has introduced a bill to expand the drilling area to 2.9 million acres, while two Florida senators wish to reduce it to 740,000 acres. Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) has threatened to filibuster Domenici’s bill and hold up Kempthorne’s confirmation, saying, “[W]e ought to pursue positions other than the agenda of the oil industry, with its mantra of ‘drill, drill, drill.'” Word up, Bill.