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'Guarding Our Coast'

June 06, 1988

During my visits to California over the past several years, a number of private citizens have approached me to complain of arbitrary actions taken against them by the California Coastal Commission. During this same period of time, I have observed the commission making arbitrary decisions regarding the efforts of oil and gas companies to explore and develop federal leases offshore California.

In a series of articles last September, "Coastal Commission--an Idea Gone Astray" and in an editorial, "Greed Runs Out of Control," your newspaper called attention to the dangers of a freewheeling commission acting without appropriate standards and guidelines.

Now comes your May 2 editorial, "Guarding Our Coast," which endorses the commission's practices of operating without standards and guidelines in making decisions that affect the energy security of the state and nation. You are wrong in stating that the federal government has tried to "bulldoze over, through and around state and local government" to develop offshore oil and gas resources.

We do believe strongly in the fundamental principle which is the basis for the U.S. system of justice. That is "rule of law" rather than rule by the arbitrary decisions. The federal law providing for support of and coordination with state coastal zone management programs clearly indicates that these bodies are to operate under reasonable standards clearly stated. The commission uses no standards, insisting that it must deal with every application on a case-by-case basis.

The U.S. Supreme Court has slapped the commission's wrist for taking arbitrary actions against individual California property owners. The American public, which owns the federal outer continental shelf, and the companies with leases, are entitled to fair treatment as well.

It is ludicrous for the commission to argue that it cannot establish a set of rules that will protect the coast and provide reasonable standards for offshore exploration and development. It is even more incredible that your newspaper would support the right of this commission to make arbitrary demands and decisions.

Experience during these past three years has convinced me that we have a well-designed federal leasing program. It works when we let it, providing ample opportunities for state and local consultation in the two-year process preceding each proposed sale.

DONALD PAUL HODEL

Secretary of the Interior

Washington, D.C.

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