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State Delegation Opposes Coast Drilling Plan

March 04, 1987|Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Twenty-eight members of California's congressional delegation complained today that the Interior Department's plans for drilling for oil and gas in federal waters off the state are inadequate to protect the environment.

The complaints came in formal comments filed with the Interior Department on the department's draft five-year plan for offshore exploration for the whole country. Secretary Donald P. Hodel has 60 days to respond to the comments and submit the plan to Congress. If Congress does not change it, the plan goes into effect.

Hodel's draft calls for opening 1,120 nine-square-mile tracts to drilling in areas off California that had been closed to oil companies in year-by-year drilling bans enacted in the early 1980s.

Release of the draft last month was accompanied by the final breakdown of negotiations with an 18-member team of senators and House members from California and other states. Congress last year asked the team to attempt to reach agreement with Hodel on what areas should be drilled.

Agreement Repudiated

A similar negotiating effort in 1985 tentatively agreed on 150 tracts, but Hodel repudiated the agreement on the ground that those tracts held little if any oil or gas.

Delegation members at a news conference repeated familiar criticisms of offshore drilling and Hodel. Their written comments included these points:

--The 1985 proposal would have kept the closed areas off limits until 2000. "We believe that the department's failure to endorse the concept of long-term protection (in the draft) is a major departure from the entire context of the discussions to date."

--Hodel proposed several buffer zones adjacent to state waters. The delegation said these "provide little in the way of even temporary protection."

--No protection for fishing grounds is incorporated.

--There is no discussion of alternatives to drilling such as conservation.

The document invited Hodel to reopen talks, but members made clear they did not expect that to happen.

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