Push to drill off Florida has money and confidence

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A secretive group of powerful legislators, business groups and Texas oil companies has been laying the groundwork since December to win legislative approval to open Florida waters to oil exploration and end the 20-year drilling moratorium.

Florida Energy Associates — which identifies itself only by saying that it is financed by a group of independent oil producers — has hired lobbyists, public-relations experts, a financial consultant and a pollster to help advocate for the sale of drilling leases in state waters between the shore and 10 miles off Florida's Gulf Coast.

And the group has influential friends to help: Associated Industries of Florida, the Association of Builders and Contractors, and several petroleum companies.

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