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Senate Approves Drilling off Florida Coast

A Senate committee has approved opening the eastern Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling within 10 miles (16 kilometers) of the Florida Panhandle and within 45 miles (72 kilometers) of the rest of the state's coastline.

The provision was tacked onto a broader energy bill by a vote of 13-10 Tuesday in the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

The eastern Gulf waters were singled out for protection against drilling by Congress in 2006 as part of a deal that made available 8.3 million acres (3.36 million hectares) for drilling in the east-central Gulf.

Sen. Bill Nelson said that oil and gas development in the eastern Gulf would interfere with military training in the area. And the Florida Democrat vowed to filibuster the energy legislation and block its approval if the provision is not removed.

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