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'Half an Offshore Loaf'

February 16, 1987

Concerning your editorial (Feb. 9), "Half an Offshore Loaf," I couldn't agree more with your position.

The question of leasing in federal waters for oil and gas exploration and development should not be a take-it-and-love-it proposition as offered by Interior Secretary Donald Hodel in his recently announced five-year offshore development plan.

Common sense dictates that each potential lease area should be examined individually, taking into consideration the environmental impact on air quality onshore, the potential for oil spills, as well as the opinion of the communities nearby, since they will have to live with the oil derricks. But Secretary Hodel has not subjected his proposal to this kind of analysis.

Members of the California congressional delegation last year met 16 times to try and work out an agreeable compromise with the Department of Interior on the specific localities where oil and gas exploration would be acceptable. But to no avail. Most disappointing, in fact, is that none of the progress made in these sessions is reflected in the secretary's proposal.

There are about 700 tracts along California's coast that the oil industry has indicated are the areas they most want to explore. Unfortunately, most of these locations are opposite major population centers or untouched scenic landscapes.

Under Hodel's five-year plan, more than 600 of the priority tracts would be open for development. As a point of reference, the preliminary agreement negotiated in 1985 would have allowed only 150 tracts for development--Hodel subsequently reneged on this deal.

Based on the secretary's recent five-year plan, it's clear he opted for the whole offshore loaf, refusing to make any serious concessions--an untenable position prompting the deserved outcry from the delegation.

While the fight to protect California's undeveloped offshore areas continues at the federal level, much can be done in the meantime to protect air quality along the coast where outer continental shelf development already exists. For example, I have introduced legislation to turn over authority to Environmental Protection Agency for regulating air quality along the outer continental shelf. Jurisdiction now rests in the hands of the Interior Department, which imposes less stringent standards than required under the Clean Air Act.

EPA, I believe, would do a far better job to limit offshore pollution from OCS oil and gas development.



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