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FEDERAL GOVERNMENT PUSHES AGGRESSIVE PLAN FOR OIL AND GAS DRILLING OFF FLORIDA'S BEACHES

Public Meeting Today in Tallahassee

TALLAHASSEE, FL (April 6, 2006) -- The U.S. Department of Interior's Minerals Management Service (MMS) is holding a public meeting today in Tallahassee, Florida on a plan to open areas off the state's coast for oil and gas drilling, a move that could pose a serious economic and environmental risk to beach communities, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC).

"Daily air and water pollution, tar balls and oil spill threats would result from oil and gas drilling in the Gulf," said Susan Glickman, Florida Program Director for NRDC. "There are many cleaner, faster and cheaper solutions to solving our energy challenges that do not include drilling off our beaches. Using technologies that are already available we can use less energy in our homes, offices and cars. More energy can be saved through taking efficiency measures than can be drilled out of the Gulf."

MMS estimates that opening parts of Lease Sale 181 off the Gulf coast would yield about 6 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. However, according to a recent study by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, a combination of energy efficiency and renewable energy policies could save almost 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas by 2013. These savings are not only more than the gas that is in Lease Sale 181, but could be achieved long before most of the gas could be extracted from the area. Some examples of energy efficiency policies include improving building, appliance and vehicle fuel economy standards to reduce the energy we use in our offices, homes and cars.

The energy industry claims that it needs additional access to offshore areas. Though according to an MMS review, more than 80 percent of oil and 75 percent of natural gas reserves are located in areas currently open to the oil and gas industry.

Offshore drilling also poses significant threats to fragile beaches, wildlife, and the economic security of coastal communities. Three million gallons of oil spilled from offshore oil and gas operations in 73 incidents between 1980 and 1997, according to the Department of Interior.

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, nonprofit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has 1.2 million members and online activists nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

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