A Ventura firm has been granted permission to drill the first test wells for oil and gas off the Northern California coast, Environmental Protection Agency officials said. The drilling would be conducted by McClelland Engineering near Ano Nuevo on the Santa Cruz coast, off Point Reyes and the Sonoma coast, near Mendocino and Point Arena and in the Eel River basin, Judith Ayres, regional EPA administrator, said in San Francisco. Unless there is a request for an evidentiary hearing on the decision, the EPA permit will become effective June 12, Ayres said. Rep. Sala Burton (D-San Francisco) said she opposes the EPA permit, which was issued after officials heard 15 hours of testimony at public hearings in San Rafael and Mendocino. Burton said she fears the drilling and dumping of the mud from the tests will endanger marine life. The EPA permit was the last federal approval needed for McClelland to begin operations.
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