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Protecting the Coast

May 04, 1986

The California Coastal Commission recently took a courageous action to bar the federal government from permitting oil drilling off the San Diego County coastline. As a member of the commission, I had the opportunity to review and comment on the Department of Interior's proposed five-year offshore oil and gas exploration program.

The Coastal Commission's response in a dramatic 7-3-2 vote (with seven votes required for passage) was to recommend to Interior that all areas off the California coastline not already leased be deleted from further consideration for oil and gas exploration. The Department of the Interior had proposed oil platforms within three miles of the San Diego County coastline.

This action by the California Coastal Commission puts the federal government on notice: the protection of our coastal resources, national defense and local economy are of the highest priority. They will not be compromised.

Californians have long accepted their share of responsibility for meeting the nation's energy needs. We produce 13% of the nation's oil, yet account for only 11% of the nation's population, and use just 8% of the energy consumed in America.

A 1978 report prepared by the Department of the Interior revealed that oil reserves off the San Diego County coastline represent only a 32-hour national supply. Currently, more than 700,000 acres of the California outer continental shelf are being leased to oil companies. There are over 51,000 producing oil wells in the state. Under the recent Coastal Commission action, those leased acres and producing wells are not affected.

Californians should not, however, be asked to sacrifice additional beaches, wetlands and our coastal-dependant economy because of a myopic federal zeal to exploit our fragile environment.

Our military, our economy and our coastal environment are all dependent upon an oil-free coastline. Last year in San Diego County, 6.5 billion military dollars were expended. The tourist industry accounted for $3 billion and 85,000 jobs. The California fishing industry is a $2-billion annual business with San Diego roots.

This month we celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Coastal Act. For a decade the 12-member Coastal Commission has been the guardian of our coastline. This recent action to restrict offshore drilling ensures continued protection of California's scenic and natural resources.

MIKE GOTCH

City councilman

San Diego

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