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Offshore Oil Drilling "Not In Florida Waters," Lawmaker Says

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. - ( - Waters around South Florida will remain untouched by oil drills – at least this legislative season, said Senate President Mike Haridopolos.

It's a stance that has changed since the BP Deepwater Horizon spill, which forced lawmakers to take a closer look at the safety in offshore oil drilling.

Before the Louisiana oil spill, Haridopolos joined a chorus of lawmakers who had pushed for new drilling within 10 miles of Florida's Gulf coast – with some drilling as near as three miles from the Atlantic shore.

Now, Haridopolos, R-Merritt Island, said he doesn't support oil drilling near the shore of Florida's waters until the technology related to offshore drilling is fully understood.

"Not in Florida waters, not this session," Haridopolos told The News Service of Florida in an interview.

Haridopolos said rising gas prices and a scarcity in oil will eventually create the need to explore the off-shore oil drilling option. Haridopolos is seeking the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate seat, which will open next year.

"We must ensure that innovative technology guarantees safe drilling and would not impact Florida's environment or tourism industry. When safe drilling is available, we have an obligation to provide for the long-term economic well-being of our country and state," Haridopolos said back in December.

For Haridopolos, it's a key issue as lawmakers around the nation take in the lessons from the massive BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill that wreaked havoc on Louisiana's waters on April 20, 2010.

The impact of that spill is still affecting the area. Haridopolos has said that he continues to support exploration efforts around the Gulf where it is already allowed.

A federal ban temporarily prevented new drilling in the Gulf, but that ban has since been lifted. Since then, deepwater drilling permits have been issued in the Gulf.

A two-decade-old ban on drilling in state waters remains in effect and extends out about 10 miles from the coast into the Gulf and three miles out into the Atlantic.

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The News Service of Florida substantially contributed to this report.)

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