Residents Vent Anger Over Offshore Oil Drilling Plan

Times Staff Writer

The suggestions ranged from burning an oil platform in effigy to starting a citywide fuel-conservation drive.

One Laguna Beach woman even suggested forming a “human snake from San Clemente to Huntington Beach” when U.S. Interior Secretary Donald Hodel visits on Aug. 31 to show Orange County’s opposition to a plan that would open its coastline to offshore oil drilling.

But Maggie Meggs, the honorary mayor of Laguna Beach, struck the most popular note Tuesday night when she suggested a recall of Rep. Robert E. Badham (R-Newport Beach), who represents the coastal district slated to have 54 square miles offshore opened for exploration.


“Actually, I want him drawn and quartered,” said Meggs, who describes herself as being “well over 60.”

She added: “But I’ll take him out.”

About 200 Laguna Beach residents jammed City Council chambers Tuesday night for a special hearing on the tentative agreement on offshore oil drilling unveiled in Washington on July 16 by Hodel and members of California’s congressional delegation.

The proposal, on which public comment will be sought through August, would open for lease about 330 square miles to oil exploration off Orange, Los Angeles and San Diego counties. It would also open for leasing about 1,020 square miles of ocean floor off Northern and Central California, while sparing the remaining 97.7% of the state’s coastal waters now protected by a 4-year-old moratorium.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, a representative of state Sen. Marian Bergeson (R-Newport Beach) read a prepared statement in which the senator said she is conducting a review of the plan and expects to oppose, after her review, any further oil drilling off Orange County.

Newport Beach Councilwoman Evelyn Hart told the audience that the Newport Harbor Board of Realtors and a prominent environmental group that opposes expansion of John Wayne Airport would join the fight against any lifting of the current moratorium.

Hart said SPON (Stop Polluting Our Newport) and the Realtors will circulate petitions in opposition throughout Newport Beach and elsewhere.

Laguna Beach Councilman Robert F. Gentry outlined the Interior Department’s tentative agreement with maps and gave a rundown of the players in the political compromise that was struck in Washington.

Then, after describing the efforts of a coalition of four coastal cities--San Clemente, Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach--Gentry and Laguna Beach Mayor Bobbie Minkin told the audience “time is of the essence--the clock is running. The bottom line remains that we must band together to stop the lifting of the moratorium.”

One by one residents streamed up to the podium to offer advice on strategy. One man suggested boycotting defense-related industries in Orange County unless they joined the battle. Another suggested selling T-shirts bearing the slogan “Oil and Water Don’t Mix, Save the Beach.”

And Toni Iseman, a high school counselor in Irvine, suggested forming a human chain along Pacific Coast Highway to attract Hodel’s and the world’s attention. “We’ve got to do something so big it has to be noticed,” Iseman said.

The Interior Department’s proposal has produced storms of protest in some Southern California communities since July 16, including Laguna Beach.

The department’s proposal would open up to oil exploration 198 square miles of the outer Santa Monica Bay, 36 square miles off Long Beach, 54 square miles off Huntington Beach, Newport Beach and Laguna Beach, and 45 square miles off Oceanside.

The agreement protects Big Sur, the San Francisco coast and peninsula, the Farallon Islands, the Mendocino coast, Point Reyes, the Bodega Basin and military areas, including those off southern San Diego County.

As written into the Interior Department’s 1986 appropriations bill, however, the plan would allow an exploratory well to be drilled no closer than 18 miles offshore in each of three areas--Point Arena, Bodega Bay and Santa Cruz--to study geological formations.

Hodel has said that lifting the moratorium on the 150 tracts does not mean all the areas will be leased. But if they were, environmental studies and other reviews would delay development until at least 1990.

The agreement does not affect Massachusetts, the only other state covered by such a moratorium. The House appropriations panel extended the ban covering four areas off Cape Cod, the Georges Bank and Great South Channel to protect rich fishing grounds and lobster beds within 50 miles of the coast.