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Opposition to Offshore Drilling Encouraged by Rep. Levine

November 07, 1985|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

Rep. Mel Levine (D-Los Angeles) encouraged South Bay residents last weekend to organize ballot initiatives opposing offshore oil drilling in and around Santa Monica Bay. Speaking at a town meeting in Hermosa Beach, Levine cautioned, however, that organizers should press for initiatives only if they are certain of victory.

Levine, who represents coastal communities from the southern portion of Pacific Palisades to north Torrance, has been active in negotiations between a delegation of California legislators and the Department of the Interior seeking to limit offshore drilling. The California lawmakers want to keep environmentally sensitive areas along the California coastline off limits to the oil industry.

"The problem is--and let's just be blunt about it--is that this is a very high-stakes money matter to the oil industry," he said. "They are prepared to spend all the resources they can muster to defeat any kind of effort on the ballot. If there are anti-drilling efforts in various parts of the coastline, I welcome them if they can win. They can win, if they are well organized."

A tentative agreement reached last summer between the California legislators and the Department of the Interior collapsed in September when Secretary of the Interior Donald P. Hodel withdrew his support, declaring that the compromise excluded too many energy-rich tracts. The plan would have allowed drilling on 150 nine-square-mile tracts of ocean floor off the state, including 5 1/2 tracts off the Palos Verdes Peninsula. The agreement left 6,310 other tracts, including Santa Monica Bay, under a drilling moratorium until the year 2000.

At the Hermosa Beach meeting on Saturday, Levine said the California legislators will meet again with Hodel. The California delegation has also introduced legislation that would make the failed agreement into law--despite objections from the Interior Department. Levine emphasized the importance of a vocal, local opposition to oil drilling in helping pass the legislation and in persuading Hodel to honor a new agreement.

"This is an issue that defies partisanship," Levine said. "One of the points that is left to fight over is how intense the political sentiment really is along the coastline. . . . They need to know that the sentiment here is extremely strong."

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