Drilling In The Gulf

The federal government is selling oil drilling leases off Florida's Gulf coast for the first time in more than a decade. It's a limited sale under a compromise between the Bush administration and the state of Florida.

The federal Minerals Management Service will lease tracts for oil and gas exploration in a one-and-a-half million-acre area on Wednesday. It's a reduction from the five-point-nine million acres that President Bush initially proposed. After President Bush made his proposal, environmentalists and Florida Governor Jeb Bush, fought to block the drilling. The original lease area came as close as 17 miles to Pensacola in Florida's Panhandle.

But the new northern area is at least 100 miles from the beaches of Mississippi, Florida and Alabama. The eastern edge is 285 miles from Tampa Bay. Oil companies have refused to discuss their bidding plans before the sale.