BY CURTIS MORGAN

Offshore oil and gas rigs could move dramatically closer to Florida’s coastline — nearly within sight of pristine Panhandle beaches — under a provision approved Tuesday by a key Senate panel.

The amendment, tacked onto a massive energy bill in Congress, would renege on a compromise won by Florida lawmakers just three years ago and radically reduce no-drilling zones in the eastern Gulf of Mexico — from 125 miles down to 10 miles off the Panhandle and from 235 miles down to 45 miles off Tampa and coastal communities to the south.

U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., vowed to fight the move with a filibuster if necessary.

”We’re just simply not going to let this happen,” Nelson told reporters after the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee passed a provision proposed by Sen. Byron Dorgan, D-N.D.

Environmentalists said the move would break the 2006 deal crafted by Florida’s congressional delegation, which agreed to open about 8 million acres of the east-central Gulf to oil and gas development in exchange for putting a massive swath of federal waters closer to the state off-limits until at least 2022.

For the full story go to http://www.miamiherald.com/news/florida/story/1089928.html