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Offshore Oil Rigs Endanger Our Coast

January 20, 2002

Re "Bush Hears Local Voices--When It Suits His Agenda," Commentary, Jan. 16: John Balzar rightly illuminates the president's double standard on states' rights but uses the issue too much as an attack against President Bush without emphasizing the damage these oil rigs will cause. Although I am a Democrat, it should be noted that development on these leases first occurred in 1999 during President Clinton's term.

In June, with the support of Californian environmental groups like CalPIRG, the state of California won its court case against the federal government mandating that California must be consulted about any new rigs built off its shores. Each one of the these rigs will drill scores of wells, and with each well the production will dump toxic metals like lead and mercury into our ocean.

The U.S. Department of the Interior released a study a few years ago demonstrating a 94% chance of a major oil spill in Southern California in the next three decades. Yet despite these dangers and the president's rhetoric about states' rights, Interior Secretary Gale Norton has appealed the court's decision to let California decide about its own coasts. California has repeatedly rejected building new oil rigs, and the Department of the Interior is attempting a backhanded route to serve corporate oil interests at the expense of California's environment and public health. Californians need to make their voices heard to their representatives and the Interior Department to protect our already damaged coastline from becoming even worse.

Scott Grant

Burbank

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I am in complete accord with Balzar that the Bush administration's high esteem for local decision-making is based on profit, not principle. Not only does this administration cater to the whims of industry regarding the use of our public lands but it also proposes the overly simplistic solution of multiple use as a panacea. While some recreational activities on our public lands are compatible with wildlife, most industrial uses are not. Bush administration officials' failure to acknowledge this fact demonstrates their disregard for the environment.

Seth Shteir

Sherman Oaks

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