Six House Democrats have introduced legislation that would bar drilling for oil and natural gas in federal waters off the Mid-Atlantic and North Atlantic coastlines.

Specifically the bill (HR 1696) seeks to amend the Outer Continental Shelf Lands Act to permanently prohibit the secretary of the Department of Interior from issuing leases for the exploration, development or production of oil, natural gas or any other minerals in the two regions of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

The measure has been referred to the House Natural Resources Committee. But it’s unclear if the bill will see any major action, given that House leadership has signaled that it will not pursue the reimposition of the congressional OCS moratorium, which was lifted last October (see Daily GPI, Sept. 30, 2008).

The reprieve from the nearly 30-year-old drilling ban permits oil and gas leasing as close as three miles from the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in the eastern Gulf of Mexico — except off the western coast of Florida. A 125-mile buffer off the Florida coast will remain in place until 2022.

The legislation seeking to reimpose the ban in the Mid-Atlantic and North Atlantic offshore regions is sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. of New Jersey, and co-sponsored by Reps. Kathy Castor of Florida, William D. Delahunt of Massachusetts, James Moran of Virginia, Steven Rothman of New Jersey and Albio Sires of New Jersey.

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