Environmental groups are targeting Sen. Mel Martinez (R-FL) in a series of print and radio advertisements for his decision to support a GOP-crafted compromise that would establish a 125-mile, no-drill buffer zone around Florida in the eastern Gulf of Mexico.

The radio ad, which is running in the Orlando market, begins with a sound bite from Martinez last October: “I continue to be steadfast in my opposition to any drilling off Florida’s coasts.” Then a woman says “This was the Mel Martinez we knew. Guess we hardly knew you senator because just last week you sided with oil companies” to allow drilling off of Florida’s coasts.

“Sen. Martinez has repeatedly claimed that he values Florida’s coastline, so we’re puzzled by the fact that he has authored a drilling deal that allows oil rigs in the Gulf and gives oil companies access to previously protected areas,” said Rodger Schlickeisen, president of the Defenders of Wildlife Action Fund, which is sponsoring the radio spot. “The senator must understand that without his support, this bad deal for Florida’s coasts cannot move forward. He should shelve it.”

The 60-second ad encourages Floridians to call the senator’s office directly to voice their opposition to drilling for oil and natural gas off of the Sunshine State’s coastline.

A second advertisement, sponsored by the Sierra Club and published in the Tampa Tribune Tuesday, displays an oil-soaked bird with a warning: “Senator Martinez, you don’t really want this stain on your record do you?”

The Senate compromise, which Republican leaders reached last Wednesday, proposes to open a total of eight million acres in Lease Sale 181 and in a tract just south of the 181 area, which are located west of Tampa and south of the Florida Panhandle. It’s estimated that the Lease 181 area in the eastern Gulf contains 1.25 billion barrels of oil and 5 Tcf of natural gas. The agreement is expected to result in a stand-alone offshore leasing bill later this month, which the Senate is to take up before it leaves for its month-long August recess.

Martinez, who has sharply opposed expanded drilling on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS), signaled his support for the compromise over previous plans. “After the relentless attempts and growing pressure in Congress to open drilling as close as 50 miles from our coast, this agreement gives Floridians the concrete assurances we need that our coasts are protected now and well into the future,” he said last week. “This is a good deal for Florida and one we need to take.”

But Florida Democratic Sen. Bill Nelson withheld support for the OCS agreement, saying that “the devil’s always in the details.”

©Copyright 2006Intelligence Press Inc. All rights reserved. The preceding news reportmay not be republished or redistributed, in whole or in part, in anyform, without prior written consent of Intelligence Press, Inc.