[JURIST] The US Senate voted 71-25 [roll call] Tuesday to approve the Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act of 2006 [S 3711 text; bill summary], which would allow oil and gas drilling in about 8.3 million acres of federal waters in the central Gulf. The bill garnered broad support in the wake of soaring gas prices, but its critics asserted that the drilling would not take place in areas other than the Gulf, nor would it begin for several years.
The legislation will also need to be squared with a bill passed by the US House of Representatives in June [JURIST report], the Deep Ocean Energy Resources Act [HR 4761 text], which would end the offshore drilling moratorium on 85 percent of the coastal waters surrounding the US – a measure that has been renewed by Congress every year since 1981. The Senate and House are expected to begin reconciling the bills when they return from their summer hiatuses in September. AP has more.