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Hermosa to Put Ocean Drilling Issue Before Voters

December 19, 1985|DEAN MURPHY | Times Staff Writer

In a symbolic move intended to "get the ball rolling" in other cities on Santa Monica Bay, the Hermosa Beach City Council decided this week to ask voters in April if they oppose offshore oil drilling in the bay.

The advisory ballot measure, the first of its kind from a city on the bay, will ask voters if the federal government should lease tracts in the bay to oil companies for offshore oil and gas exploration.

Councilman Gary Brutsch, an opponent of offshore drilling who proposed the measure, said it comes in response to unsuccessful efforts by a bipartisan delegation of California congressmen to extend a federal moratorium on offshore drilling along the entire California coastline.

The local measure will have no legal effect on leasing decisions made by the federal government, but Brutsch and other supporters said a series of similar measures in Santa Monica Bay cities could persuade legislators and federal officials to exclude tracts in the bay from leasing discussions.

'Get Ball Rolling'

"It is important we do all we can to keep those oil derricks off the Santa Monica Bay," Brutsch said. "Somebody has to get the ball rolling."

The House Appropriations Committee last month voted not to renew a four-year moratorium on oil exploration off California, opening the door to oil exploration in federal waters three miles or more from the coast.

The moratorium expired Sept. 30 after Secretary of the Interior Donald P. Hodel backed out of an agreement worked out with the California delegation last summer that would have limited exploration to 150 of the 6,460 potential oil-bearing tracts along the coastline. The agreement would have allowed drilling off the Palos Verdes Peninsula, but spared tracts in Santa Monica Bay.

Brutsch's motion to place the measure on the April municipal election ballot came three weeks after the council rejected a similar effort. Brutsch, in a written request Nov. 25, had asked that the measure be placed on the ballot. He was on vacation at that time and did not attend the council meeting, and the council rejected the request in his absence.

Opposed by Mayor

At this week's meeting, the proposed measure was opposed only by Mayor Jack Wood, who predicted that a citywide vote on offshore oil drilling would have no effect on officials in Washington. He said Hermosa Beach, with a population of about 18,000, is too small to exert influence on such a far-reaching issue.

Wood also said the measure could jeopardize efforts by the city to gain state approval for onshore drilling of oil from state tidelands. City voters in November, 1984, approved plans for onshore drilling, but Wood said approval of a ballot measure opposed to offshore oil drilling might be misinterpreted by state officials as opposition to onshore drilling, too.

"You are talking about putting a good chunk of the city's future at risk," said Wood, explaining that city officials hope revenue from onshore oil drilling of state tidelands will help bring stability to the financially troubled city. "I just don't understand the return. The risk is too high."

Brutsch said, however, that staff members from the State Lands Commission, which has been in discussions with the city over the tidelands oil, and Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica), who last month urged local officials to put offshore oil drilling measures on the ballot, assured him that the two drilling issues are not related.

"The only relationship is illusionary on your part," Brutsch told Wood.

City Clerk Kathleen Reviczky said placing the oil measure on the ballot will cost the city $1,500. Three City Council seats will also be on the ballot April 8.

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