U.S. Senate Panel Approves Opening of Lease Sale 181 Area

The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee voted 16-5 this morning to approve legislation opening 3.6 million acres of the Gulf of Mexico's coveted Lease Sale 181 area to oil and gas drilling.

The panel approved the bipartisan measure without revision, but several senators say they plan to offer amendments on the Senate floor. Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) said he plans to propose a competing measure that creates permanent protections for coastal Florida and would leave a much smaller part of the 181 area open to energy development than the bill approved by the committee.

Meanwhile, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) remains in discussion with the bill's lead sponsors, committee Chairman Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and ranking member Jeff Bingaman (D-N.M.), about amending the bill to provide coastal assistance funding to Louisiana and other gulf states with offshore oil and gas production.

Landrieu wants to provide states a share of offshore leasing and production revenues, which Bingaman opposes. After the committee passed the bill, she said new coastal funding that does not include "revenue-sharing" is on the table.

"We are open to alternatives that would meet our objective of a long-term, reliable stream of revenue," she told reporters.

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Company: Minerals Management Service (MMS) more info
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