Gas Pipeline Vote Gets Emotional

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Florida lawmakers trying to save a long-planned natural gas pipeline to their state were defeated--at least for now--in a narrow House vote Thursday that many saw as payback for the delegation's earlier win on an offshore drilling ban.

The vote came after a raucous House debate that included references to chickens, cows and grandstanding. And it marked another emotional disagreement over who should bear responsibility for oil and gas production in this country.

The amendment, which lost 213 to 210, was an attempt to strip language inserted into an appropriations bill by Rep. Sonny Callahan (R-Ala.), who chairs the energy and water Appropriations subcommittee. Callahan was furious that a vote last week banning oil and gas drilling off the coast of Florida for another year took place while the Alabama delegation was back home for President Bush's visit.

The vote to ban drilling was considered a blow to Bush's energy policy--and was the source of disagreement between the president and his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush.

Callahan, who accused his Gulf Coast neighbors of "arrogance" and "grandstanding," hit back with the provision to prevent further construction on the Gulf Stream Pipeline. When completed, the pipeline would deliver natural gas, the chief fuel for electricity generation, to Florida. Callahan denied that he was seeking retribution, saying the pipeline might damage the Gulf of Mexico. But there was a definite air of payback in Thursday's debate.

He and others who are pro-drilling said Floridians should not count on a steady flow of the same energy resources they refuse to develop on their own. "Florida rivals California as a prime example of 'not in my backyard' syndrome," said Majority Whip Tom Delay (R-Texas).

By that standard, fired back Rep. Joe Scarborough, a Florida Republican: "If you consume milk, you better have a cow." (A similar example involving chickens also was offered.)

The battle may not be lost for the Floridians. Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), powerful chairman of the full Appropriations committee, vowed to remove Callahan's provision in negotiations with the Senate over the appropriations bill. "He said he'd take care of it," said his spokesman, Harry John Glenn.

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