Easing offshore drilling ban

TEXT OF STORY

MARK AUSTIN THOMAS: The House is set to vote this week on a bill that would relax a 25-year-old ban on offshore oil and gas drilling. The current ban covers most US coastal waters out to 100 miles. This bill would cut that distance in half, but give states the option of retaining the old limit. Marketplace's Steve Tripoli has more.

STEVE TRIPOLI: Prize areas that could be open to drilling under the bill lie off Florida's Panhandle, North Carolina's Outer Banks, New England and the West Coast.

RICHARD CHARTER:"This is the end game for coastal protection in America as we know it."

Richard Charter of the National Outer Continental Shelf Coalition says the bill's a massive giveaway to energy interests.

CHARTER: "Just about everything the oil industry's ever wanted is in this bill including leaving their trash in the ocean."

But advocates counter that America's energy situation makes it high time to tap potentially rich reserves. They say environmental protection's come a long way since the original ban.

The debate has made for political bedfellows defined more by coastal tourism dollars than by party. Florida, California and New Jersey are balking. They worry that neighboring states chasing drilling dollars will foul their beaches.

The bill looks headed for a close vote in the House. And political observers say it will have an even tougher ride if it makes it as far as the Senate.

I'm Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.

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