5-30-02

Deals block oil drilling in Everglades and Gulf
President moves to buy back rights, protect resources
BY TIM JOHNSON AND CURTIS MORGAN

President Bush on Wednesday blocked efforts to erect drilling rigs off sugary Panhandle beaches and among cypress stands fringing the Everglades, announcing two landmark deals to buy back oil and gas rights for $235 million.

''Florida is known worldwide for its beautiful coastal waters and the Everglades,'' the president said at a White House ceremony attended by his brother, Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. ``Today, we are acting to preserve both.''

The agreements also have broader implications, giving Jeb Bush a campaign boost and bolstering the president's image in a state vital to his reelection hopes as well.

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