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FL Senator Vows to Block Norton Successor Who Supports Stepped-Up Drilling

The announced resignation of Interior Secretary Gale Norton has given opponents of drilling off Florida's coastline added impetus to stop the Bush administration's proposal to open up more of the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and natural gas leasing, said offshore drilling foe Sen. Bill Nelson (D-FL) on Monday.

As part of his strategy, Nelson said he would block the White House's successor for Norton if the nominee supports additional leasing in the gas-rich area known as Lease Sale 181 in the eastern Gulf.

In a two-page letter to President Bush last week, Norton, the first woman to head the department, said she would resign at the end of the month after five years of service in the administration. She indicated that she planned to return to the private sector and to Colorado with her husband. Norton had been the attorney general for Colorado during the 1990s.

Her resignation comes at a time when Interior has come under siege from Capitol Hill and in the press for its alleged undercollection of royalties for oil and natural gas production on federal lands.

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