By Ben Geman - 05/05/10 05:31 PM EDT
Sen. Bill NelsonBill NelsonFederal agency under fire for selling recalled cars Senators offer renewed hope of ending hotel booking scams Yahoo hack spurs push for legislation MORE (D-Fla.) is sponsoring the bill in the Senate, along with Sens. Bernie SandersBernie SandersWhite House contest casts shadow over mega-deal Fed pressures Congress to spend Warren’s power on the rise MORE (I-Vt.), Jack ReedJack ReedTop Lobbyists 2016: Hired Guns Armani, Batali among guests at White House state dinner Overnight Finance: Jobless claims near record low | Cops bust IRS phone scam in India | Republican demands Iran sanctions docs MORE (D-R.I.) and Dianne FeinsteinDianne FeinsteinDefense chief pledges to 'resolve' bonus clawback issue California National Guard official: Congress knew about bonus repayments Airbnb foes mobilize in Washington MORE (D-Calif.). Rep Alcee Hastings (D-Fla.) is a House co-sponsor, and other House members will back the bill by day’s end, an aide to Meek said.
The bill would specifically halt any new exploration, development and production in federal waters, including seismic tests.
Also, it says that exploration already underway should be suspended unless the Interior Department certifies that it doesn’t pose a “significant risk” if accident. Nelson’s office emphasized that the measure would not block current oil production.
The measure also suspends work on the Obama administration plan to open new areas for development in the 2012-2017 period.
The administration in late March announced plans for leasing in areas along the Atlantic Coast, which until 2008 was under a drilling moratorium, and wider leasing in Arctic waters.
As part of the plan, the administration is calling on Congress to shrink the no-drilling buffer in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, although it would keep rigs 125 miles from Florida’s Gulf shores.
President Barack ObamaBarack ObamaWhen did Russia become the enemy again? Political map shifts on Trump The lazy political writing of 'SNL' MORE last week said that new offshore leases would not be issued until the Interior Department had conducted a 30-day review of new safeguards that may be needed. However, no lease sales are scheduled within that time frame anyway.
Interior also dispatched inspectors to deepwater exploration and production platforms after the spill.
Longer term, administration officials have acknowledged that the Gulf disaster will factor into their decision-making as they craft the specifics of the plan to expand leasing into new areas.