Senate measures threaten to open U.S. coasts to drilling

The battle to open up U.S. coastal waters to oil and gas drilling is escalating, with supporters in Congress pushing a number of pro-drilling bills and amendments. An energy-bill provision up for debate this week would mandate the first complete oil and gas inventory of all U.S. waters. And Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) — backed by Pete Domenici (R-N.M.), powerful chair of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee — is pushing a provision that would expand states’ offshore boundaries. Both measures are intended to dangle oil lucre before budget-crunched states and increase the pressure to lift the longtime offshore drilling moratorium (a provision that would have lifted the ban was defeated in the House recently). “It’s death by 1,000 cuts,” says Joe Murphy of Florida’s Sierra Club. Sens. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) and Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) — who are working feverishly to prevent drilling in Florida waters — are strategizing with Sen. John Corzine (D-N.J.) to strip out the inventory provision; Nelson threatens to filibuster the energy bill unless the moratorium is upheld.