Jeb Bush’s switcheroo on drilling causes rift in Florida delegation

Florida Gov. Jeb Bush (R) is backing a bill in the House of Representatives that would open some new federal waters, including the eastern Gulf of Mexico, to oil rigs — and in so doing, he’s fractured the state’s long-standing bipartisan political consensus against offshore drilling. Jeb’s flip-flop, after years of advocating for a stronger drilling ban in order to protect his state’s tourist-friendly beaches, is said to have thrown Florida’s 27-member congressional delegation into disarray. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.), would permit oil and gas drilling 125 miles from state waters, whereas now drilling is prohibited 200 miles out. Closer than 125 miles, individual states would be able to decide whether to keep the coastal drilling moratorium after it expires in 2012; if they allowed drilling, they would get 50 percent of revenues paid to the feds. Pombo will likely try to attach his legislation to a federal budget bill. Florida’s two senators, Mel Martinez (R) and Bill Nelson (D), are staunchly opposed to the bill.