Advertisement
YOU ARE HERE: LAT HomeCollections

Offshore Oil Fight, Forever

January 18, 2002

The new struggle between California and the Bush administration over offshore oil drilling illustrates that great environmental battles are never won forever. Victory lasts merely until the next challenge comes along and the fight begins anew.

President Bush and his energy advisors should know that taking on California over offshore oil is bound to be a losing proposition. Californians--Republicans as well as Democrats--agreed two decades ago that there would be no more wells drilled off the coast, whether within the three-mile jurisdiction of the state or in federal waters beyond.

In fact, it was the Clinton administration that touched off this latest flap, but in relatively muted fashion. The Department of the Interior moved to allow companies to drill in 36 tracts leased between 1968 and 1984 off the coasts of Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties. The companies normally have five years in which to drill on their leases, but extensions were repeatedly granted.

The administration of Gov. Gray Davis challenged the Interior Department in federal court, arguing that no drilling could proceed without state approval. This argument was based on a federal law that allows the state to review the coastal impacts caused by drilling. The state won in federal district court, but now the Bush administration has decided to take the case to the appeals court.

A spokeswoman for Interior's Minerals Management Service made this incredibly condescending statement last week to The Times' Kenneth R. Weiss: "We want to clarify that all this is in federal waters. People don't understand that we are not talking about something smack dab up against the coast."

Pardon us, but Californians know exactly what's involved. We learned that lesson well in 1969 when that Union Oil platform, which was in federal waters, blew out and caused a massive oil slick that wound up smack dab on the beach. That is exactly why there is a long-term federal moratorium against any new oil leases in both state and federal waters. Pete Wilson as governor was instrumental in that, and the elder President Bush agreed to it. Unfortunately, the ban was not applied to those 36 leases.

The George W. Bush administration should reconsider its appeal and compensate the oil companies for legitimate expenses involved. Otherwise, we have every confidence that the 9th District Court of Appeal will settle this argument in California's favor, perhaps even forever.

Advertisement
Los Angeles Times Articles
|
|
|