MMS to Hold Public Hearing

Tuesday, March 14, 2006
A federal agency developing a plan for oil and natural gas drilling off Florida's shores has agreed to hold a public hearing in Tallahassee next month. The Minerals Management Service, part of the Interior Department, last week began holding a series of 13 meetings on its next five-year Outer Continental Shelf leasing program that would include a huge area in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida Panhandle. Florida politicians have complained that none of the meetings were scheduled in the state. Most are being held in Alaska with others scheduled in Texas, Louisiana, Alabama and Virginia. The added Florida meeting is scheduled for April 6. The Ledger reports that there has been public and political opposition against the MMS plan to open about 2 million acres called Area 181 that's about 100 miles south of the Panhandle and 200 miles west of Tampa Bay. Opponents contend drilling would pose a pollution threat to the state's beaches and the tourism industry that depends upon them and harm military training and weapons testing in the eastern gulf. MMS officials say offshore sources of oil and natural gas should be explored due to sharp increases in energy prices. The MMS proposal for the 2007-2012 leasing period also would change projected state boundaries in the gulf so that the leasing area would move from Florida to Louisiana and Alabama, two pro-drilling states. (Source: The Ledger)

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