Vice Pres. Al Gore today plans to announce that he will ban any new offshore oil and gas drilling along the California and Florida coasts if he is elected, a controversial move that would surely anger oil companies, some of which have already paid $1.2 billion for drilling rights off California’s coast that would be blocked by Gore’s move. In a speech to be given today in New Hampshire, Gore is expected to promise that he would have “no higher priority” as president than protecting the environment. Gore has been stung recently by criticism from enviros and is trying to burnish his green image. Yesterday he sharply criticized Texas Gov. George W. Bush’s environmental policies, saying they have given Texas the most polluted air, water, and land in the country. Bush yesterday defended his environmental record against recent criticism, though he said he’s not content with it. He also praised a cooperative effort among local, state, and federal officials to clean up contaminated sites.

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