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White House: Drilling off Florida coast's off the table

The White House will announce today that it won't allow offshore oil drilling for at least 7 years in the eastern Gulf of Mexico or off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.

A senior administration official confirmed the decision, which was prompted by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Before the spill, President Obama had announced plans to allow oil and gas exploration as close as 125 miles off Florida's west coast. On the Atlantic side, the Outer Continental Shelf from Delaware to Central Florida would have been open to drilling, after feasibility studies. Florida Democrats had urged the administration to reconsider even before the spill.

Florida Sen. Bill Nelson -- an avowed drilling opponent who is facing a crowded field of Republicans looking to challenge him for reelection in 2012 -- hailed the decision as a victory: "It’s good the president is listening to the people of Florida," Nelson said. His office noted that drilling off Florida's coast is banned at least until 2022, under a 2006 law Nelson backed.

"(Nelson) hopes Florida’s next governor and the Legislature similarly will commit to protecting the state’s tourism economy and unique environment," spokesman Dan McLaughlin said.

Nelson plans to meet today with incoming Gov. Rick Scott today to discuss oil drilling and high-speed rail. Scott during the campaign said he supported expanded offshore drilling in an "environmentally sound way and adhering to the strictest of safety standards." 

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