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SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA / A news summary

Attorney General Joins Fight Against Drilling

November 07, 2000

HERMOSA BEACH — The California attorney general's office has joined several local environmental groups in legal efforts to keep the Santa Monica-based Macpherson Oil Co. from drilling for oil in the city.

The groups are trying to invalidate a city lease that would allow Macpherson to drill nearly three dozen wells at the city maintenance yard, several blocks from the beach. Company officials estimate the firm could extract up to 30 million barrels of oil, generating $12 million annually for about 25 years.

Deputy Atty. Gen. Tara L. Mueller, who filed a brief Friday to the California Second District Court of Appeals, said the case raises an issue of fundamental importance. In the brief, she wrote that the city cannot enter into a contract with a private company that surrenders the city's right to protect the public health, safety and general welfare of its residents against the company.

Don Macpherson Jr., president of the company, said the attorney general's brief parrots the arguments of local environmental groups..

"The lease clearly and specifically states we will abide by all laws adopted by the city and state," he said.

The current appeal comes after the coalition of environmental groups tried unsuccessfully two times to overturn the lease in court.

In 1998 a Superior Court judge ruled that because the project had undergone extensive environmental review, it could be stopped only if there was significant new information about potential effects on public health, safety and welfare.

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