Kerry-Lieberman energy bill leaves eastern Gulf drilling limits intact

But the absence of wider eastern Gulf leasing in the Kerry-Lieberman plan does not mean he is home free.

A broad energy package the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee approved last year would greatly shrink Florida’s buffer zone. That package could be merged with the Kerry-Lieberman bill on the floor, although any efforts to expand offshore drilling are facing new questions and resistance.

Drilling bans along the Atlantic and Pacific Coast lapsed in 2008. The Kerry-Lieberman plan provides coastal states the ability to block drilling within 75 miles of their own shores, and allows the states to veto other drilling projects if they’re shown to pose environmental risks.

However, the plan also aims to encourage drilling by giving states with energy production off their shores a 37.5 percent share of the royalty revenues.

The Obama administration in late March announced plans to sell leases off the mid-Atlantic and southeastern coast in the 2012-2017 period. The plan also envisions greater development in Arctic waters off Alaska’s coast, and calls for reducing the eastern Gulf limits to 125 miles. The administration plan does not plan to sell leases off the Pacific Coast.