Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) must be holding his breath right now. He recently broke ranks and voted for a bill to open up 8.3 million acres in Florida’s side of the Gulf of Mexico to oil and gas drilling.

He agreed to the legislation only after he got assurances that a “zone of protection” would be put in place against drilling within 125-300 miles from parts of Florida’s coast. Whether or not this agreement survives being conferenced with the House offshore drilling bill–legislation that calls for drilling within three miles of the Sunshine State’s famous coastline–is another question.

As someone who until a year and a half ago was Sen. Nelson’s constituent, I can say I’m not too happy with this election-year decision, and the Floridians I talk to aren’t either. It’s even more depressing for me because I’ve seen what happens to Senate and House bills when they reach the conference committee, currently chaired by Sen. Pete Domenici (R-N.M.) and Rep. Richard Pombo (R-Calif.).

From the Daytona Beach News-Journal editorial page:

“If Congress were as adept at energy policy as election politics, Americans would be driving vehicles that average 40 mpg, saving as much oil per year as we currently import from the Persian Gulf, and Florida’s tourist-friendly coastline wouldn’t be facing threats of near-shore oil and gas drilling,” (The drilling yarn: More gas about the Gulf than in it, 8/4/06).

So I hope your plan works out, Sen. Nelson. I know compromises are necessary in your line of work. I just wish those compromises weren’t at the expense of Florida’s waters.