WASHINGTON (AP) – 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 federal 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 coastal beaches. They said a state choosing to keep the moratorium could do so.

The measure was approved 232-187.

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 several coastal states also have strongly opposed ending the drilling restrictions.

Many lawmakers fear that energy development could despoil coastal beaches, should there be a spill, and threatens the multibillion-dollar recreation and tourist economies of states where offshore energy development has been barred since the early 1980s.

An attempt by a delegation of Florida lawmakers to allow states to maintain a protective zone of 125 miles was rejected.


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