Environmentalists and city officials are predicting that a recent state Supreme Court action will finally end the long-debated proposal to drill for undersea oil in Hermosa Beach.
The high court last week refused to review an appellate decision that upheld a city ban on the oil drilling project backed by Macpherson Oil Co. Under that plan, the company would have been allowed to sink slant wells into the ground a few blocks from the beach to tap oil pockets beneath Santa Monica Bay.
"One thing is clear: There will be no oil drilling in Hermosa Beach," Hermosa Beach City Atty. Michael Jenkins said Monday. "The community made a judgment . . . and it was upheld by California courts."
Neither Don Macpherson Jr., president of Santa Monica-based Macpherson, nor his attorneys could be reached for comment on the court action and whether they might appeal to federal courts.
A state appellate decision in January overturned a 1998 Superior Court ruling that the city had breached a contract that would have allowed drilling. The oil company then appealed to the state Supreme Court.
Jan Chatten-Brown, an attorney for the Hermosa Beach Stop Oil Coalition, said the case sets a precedent for local governments to protect the environment--even if such action may affect a contract.
However, Jenkins said that the oil company is still seeking monetary damages for breach of contract. The company has estimated its losses to be more than $100 million as a result of the drilling ban.
Environmentalists said the fight is nearly over.
Rosamond Fogg, the leader of the Stop Oil group, said in a statement: "Oil's well that ends wells."
"We're ecstatic with the ruling," said Mark Gold, executive director for Heal the Bay, one of the environmental groups opposing slant-drilling with the Stop Oil Coalition. "It's a victory that demonstrates that when the public gets involved, it's amazing what people can do."
The battle over the drilling dates to 1932, when voters enacted a ban on all oil and gas operations. But in 1984, voters allowed for exceptions to the ban, permitting exploration and production on two sites. Two years later, the city presented a request for proposals for oil development, and Macpherson Oil Co. came forward with one for drilling at a former city maintenance yard.