- Worried about the potential for oil drilling offshore Florida, U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson (D- Fla) has placed a hold on the Energy Policy Modernization Act – and with it, funds intended to help Flint, Mich., recover from its water crisis, the Hill reports.
- Nelson believes revenue sharing expansions included in an amendment to the energy bill would ultimately expand oil drilling to areas offshore his home state, a proposition he has long vowed to fight.
- Proponents of the measure, including sponsor Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.), claim it has nothing to do with Florida and instead expands a funding program that shares offshore revenue between the federal government and Gulf states.
Nelson's hold on the energy bill should surprise no one – he announced his intention more than a week ago on the Senate floor.
“An amendment that is suspected to be offered by a senator here is going to give incentive … to try to put oil out there,” Nelson told his colleagues. “Ever since this senator was a young congressman, I have been carrying this battle. And I can tell you, Mr. President, this senator is not going to let that happen.”
Nelson's hold on the energy bill, a broad measure aimed at modernizing the country's infrastructure, is also holding up funds intended to help Flint, Mich., deal with its water crisis. But Nelson's stand has other lawmakers cautious to not be too critical.
Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) was an architect of the $250 million Flint package, and The Hill reports he has spoken with Nelson about his hold. “He’s very supportive of what we’re trying to do in Flint, and he’s said that,” Peters said. “But he feels very passionate about when it comes to drilling in the Gulf, so I respect that as well.”
The bill passed the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in July on an 18-4 vote. Among those voting against it was presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT). It was set for passage at the beginning of last month before an impasse over funding for the water crisis in Flint, forced lawmakers to postpone votes on the final amendments to the bill.
The Hill reports Nelson's hold is one of two remaing objections to the bill, with lawmakers optimistic about clearing U.S. Senator Mike Lee (R-Utah)'s hold this week.