Washington The House voted Thursday to end a quarter-century offshore drilling ban and allow energy companies to tap natural gas and oil beneath waters from New England to Alaska.
Opponents of the ban argued that the nation needed to move closer to energy independence and insisted the gas and oil could be taken without threatening the environment and beaches. They said a state choosing to keep the moratorium could do so.
But the bill's prospects in the Senate were uncertain. Florida's two senators have vowed to filibuster any legislation that would allow drilling within 125 miles of Florida's coast. Other senators from coastal states also have opposed ending the restrictions.
Many lawmakers fear that development could despoil beaches, should there be a spill, and threaten the multibillion-dollar recreation and tourist economies of states where offshore energy development has been barred since the early 1980s.
An attempt by a group of Florida lawmakers to allow states to maintain a protective zone of 125 miles was rejected.
The bill also would revamp how the federal government shares oil and gas royalties with states, producing a windfall for four Gulf states - Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Alabama - that currently have oil and gas rigs off their shores.
The middle and western Gulf of Mexico produces virtually all of the country's offshore oil and gas, with waters off the eastern Gulf, both the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and much of Alaska under the drilling moratorium.