OCEANSIDE — Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel, wrapping up two weeks of public hearings in the state, Saturday publicly questioned the credibility of a tentative accord reached with some members of Congress to open up offshore oil drilling on the California coast.
Noting that objections have been raised to the preliminary agreement from the oil industry, local officials and some environmentalists, Hodel suggested that major changes will be required.
Hodel for the first time publicly raised a new concern Saturday, saying that the possibility of lawsuits posed a major threat to the present pact, which designates 150 tracts for drilling in return for lifting the general moratorium on coastal drilling. The agreement also provides for a moratorium on drilling in 6,310 other tracts until the year 2000.
"That is a real threat to the preliminary agreement. It really is. It's probably the biggest single threat that I'm aware of at this stage," Hodel said of the lawsuits.