Sens. Byron Dorgan (D-ND) and Larry Craig (R-ID) plan to offer an amendment to the broad energy bill (HR 6) being debated in the Senate that would permit domestic producers to drill for oil and natural gas in U.S. and Cuban waters located as close as 45 miles from Florida.

The amendment would contain much of the same language of the Security and Fuel Efficiency Energy Act of 2007, which the two lawmakers introduced in March, said Craig spokesman Dan Whiting (see Daily GPI, March 14). It would seek to lift the 40-year-old embargo on companies doing business with Cuba, giving U.S.producers access to waters off the Florida coast that Cuba currently is leasing to producers in a number of other countries, such as China, Spain, Portugal and Canada.

It calls on Congress to open up more of the eastern Gulf of Mexico by lifting the federal moratoria boundary from 125 miles to within 45 miles of the Florida coast. The current 125-mile boundary was set in the Energy Policy Act, which was signed into law last year (see Daily GPI, Dec. 21, 2006). The amendment faces significant opposition from Florida senators.

The Dorgan-Craig measure also would propose that an inventory be conducted of the oil and natural gas resources off the southeastern seaboard of the U.S. using the best available assessment technologies. The inventory would be contingent on the governors of the affected states — Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia — petitioning the Interior Department to remove any existing federal legislative or administrative prohibitions on such assessments.

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