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'Offshore Oil Chokes Air'

October 13, 1987

To paraphrase the oft-quoted words of Mark Twain: the reported demise of the California outer continental shelf air quality negotiations is greatly exaggerated. Rep. Mel Levine's (D-Los Angeles) premature epitaph (Op-Ed Page, Sept. 22) entitled "Offshore Oil Chokes Air and Coastal Development," represents a misunderstanding of the status of the negotiations.

First, the negotiating process has not "proved unsuccessful" as reported by Levine. While referenced in the past tense, the negotiations are very much alive. In fact, another negotiating session is scheduled for November. In the interim, technical working groups will continue their efforts to complete documents necessary to the process.

Second, the negotiations are indeed an "admirable effort" and the "preferable solution," as Levine concedes, to a very contentious and technically perplexing issue. How to better protect California's onshore air quality from the contribution of oil and gas activities conducted on the federal OCS is the objective of Interior Secretary Donald Hodel and all the parties to the negotiations.

Third, the Department of the Interior is not "now drafting its own regulations," as alleged by Levine. Any product of the negotiations will be a truly negotiated document, one which has the input of all the parties. A consensus document will be embodied in a proposed rule making.

And, finally, the Department of the Interior is committed to assuring that the amount of pollutants emitted from exploration and development sources on the OCS is accounted for.

As the department's principal representative at the negotiations, I continue to be optimistic that a consensus agreement can be reached, not withstanding Levine's declarations and legislative initiatives to the contrary.

MICHAEL A. POLING

Deputy Assistant Secretary for

Land and Minerals Management

Washington, D.C.

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