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Congress to vote on drilling ban

In a shift on Saturday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the House will take up comprehensive energy legislation next month that includes partially lifting the 1981 ban on offshore drilling.

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Richard Drew/AP/FILE

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Nearly 40 years after some 80,000 barrels of oil washed up on the beaches of Santa Barbara ­ and launched a move to ban offshore drilling ­ Congress is heading toward a vote to end that moratorium.

For a generation of Democratic politicians, the notion of opening protected sites to drilling was toxic. But with soaring gas prices, public opinion is shifting toward anything that promises relief at the pump ­ and congressional politics is moving with it.

In a shift on Saturday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that the House will take up comprehensive energy legislation next month that includes partially lifting the 1981 ban on offshore drilling.

"It will consider opening portions of the Outer Continental Shelf for drilling, with appropriate safeguards, and without taxpayer subsidies to Big Oil," she said in the weekly Democratic radio address on Saturday.

On Friday, Senate majority leader Harry Reid said that the Senate will also examine lifting the ban, which now covers all but central and western portions of the Gulf of Mexico and some parts of Alaska.

"That's something that you know we¹re going to take up. And there¹s nothing wrong with that," he said in a conference call with Texas oilman T. Boone Pickens.

Until Saturday, Speaker Pelosi called the notion that more drilling would lower prices at the pump a hoax and said that there would be no votes on this issue on her watch.

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