Governor Urged Not to Oppose Oil Moratorium

Times Staff Writer

A bipartisan majority of the California congressional delegation Wednesday urged Gov. George Deukmejian to drop his opposition to a moratorium on offshore drilling, saying that his support is needed for a key House vote today.

Deukmejian’s press secretary, Larry Thomas, said later in a telephone interview from Sacramento, however, that “the governor is not going to change his position.”

He said the governor believes that moratoriums are “counterproductive” and added, “They create ill will on the part of other members of Congress, who may become a force for offshore development that is environmentally damaging to California.”


The 28 lawmakers, saying they back Deukmejian’s goal of limited oil and gas development off California, contended that a compromise could best be negotiated with Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel “under the protection of a moratorium.” The existing moratorium, in effect since 1981, is scheduled to expire Dec. 13.

Called Bad Timing

In a telegram, Sen. Alan Cranston (D-Calif.)--joined by 24 Democratic and three Republican House members from the state--told Deukmejian that his anti-moratorium statement in a speech Monday was made at a particularly bad time.

They noted that the House Appropriations Committee will vote today on whether to attach a renewal of the moratorium to a “continuing resolution” needed to fund much of the government through Sept. 30.

In letters to committee leaders, Hodel said Wednesday that “the Administration remains strongly opposed” to extending the moratorium because it would tie up planning for the leasing of offshore tracts. He insisted that state and local officials were being fully consulted in an effort to balance energy and environmental concerns.

“The areas offshore California have been demonstrated to be prolific sources of oil, yet many of the very best unexplored prospects in the country are currently locked up” because of the moratorium, Hodel said.

House members from Texas and Louisiana who support oil industry demands for extensive drilling off California are expected to lead a fierce battle against renewing the moratorium. They recently asked Hodel to let them join in negotiations with the Californians over a development plan.


“We appreciate your position that some limited (offshore) areas should be protected,” the Californians’ telegram to Deukmejian said. “Clearly, the best way to achieve our mutual goal of a limited drilling policy is to negotiate such an arrangement under the protection of a moratorium.”

A majority of the congressional delegation struck a limited-development agreement with Hodel in July, but the Interior secretary pulled out after oil companies raised objections to it. Legislation that would implement the agreement has been introduced by California Rep. Leon E. Panetta (D-Monterey) and endorsed by 33 of the state’s 45 House members, plus Cranston and Sen. Pete Wilson (R-Calif.).

150 Offshore Leases

The bill would permit the leasing of 150 offshore tracts encompassing 864,000 acres now covered by the congressional moratorium. The remainder of the 36.5 million acres would remain exempt from leasing until the year 2000.

Deukmejian, speaking to oil industry executives Monday, said the “blanket moratorium” should be lifted but indicated that he favored limits on drilling because of environmental concerns.

Later, he told reporters that he favors making Santa Monica Bay off limits to drilling, a position opposed by Hodel in talks with the congressional delegation. Deukmejian said he will not take a position on Northern California tracts until they undergo further review.