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The U.S. Senate just passed a bill opening up 8.3 million acres of Gulf of Mexico coastline to oil and natural gas drilling, ending a ban against offshore drilling.
This, of course, may be just the first step toward dismantling the federal moratorium protecting the Atlantic and Pacific coasts from drilling, which is precisely what a much more sweeping House bill, pushed by ocean enemy No. 1 Richard Pombo (pictured), would do.
Said Richard Charter, co-chairman of the National Outer Continental Shelf Coalition, of the bill: "This is death by a thousand cuts for coastal protections nationwide. The senators who support this bill have made it clear that while this is as much as they can open now, they ultimately want to open much more of the coast to drilling. So the question really becomes: How much happens this year ... and how much might be left for next year?"
Environmental groups and some Democrats say, reasonably, that opening coastal waters to drilling only feeds US demand for fossil fuel. As Sen. Harry Reid put it, "The Democratic caucus is very clear that there will be no more offshore drilling. This is it. Don't go back to the drill, drill, drill theory." Which is weird; but you get the idea.