California coast oil drilling plans suspended

Aug 13, 1999 02:00 AM

The Interior Department suspended a deadline for approving or denying thirty-six of the forty undeveloped oil drilling sites off the California coast to more closely study their impact on the environment and announced that the other four leases are "basically dead."
In a letter to the California Coastal Commission, Secretary Bruce Babbitt said his agency plans to take 90 days to more closely scrutinise the proposals. He said he shares the commission's concerns about the impact of drilling on marine life and marine sanctuaries, and how they address changes air and water quality regulations.
"We're asking them to provide information on a lot of specifics, which are many of the same points the state raised in a letter sent to the secretary on Aug. 5," said Tim Ahern, department spokesman in Washington.
Concerning the four leases not suspended, Ahern said: "Basically, they're dead." Coastal Commission Chairwoman Sara Wan said the Interior Department's decision indicates it is moving in thedirection of granting the state the right to have more say in reviewing these plans.
Three of the terminated sites are in the Santa Maria Basin near Vandenberg Air Force Base in Santa Barbara County and are held by Bakersfield-based Aera Energy. "We've not had a chance to review the information from the department and we're not in a position to comment," said Susan Hersberger, Aera Energy spokeswoman.
The fourth site, in the Gato Canyon area near El Capitan State Beach north of Santa Barbara and are owned by Samedan Oil Corp. of Santa Barbara. "We received the letter and we're disappointed that they would terminate one of our leases," said Ron Heck, Samedan spokesman. "It's hard for us to understand the suspension. But we're going to comply with the request.

Source: AP
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