Governor Attacked on Oil Drilling

Times Staff Writer

A delegation of local officials from coastal communities met Thursday with Gov. George Deukmejian to voice concerns over federal offshore oil drilling, but several others charged that Deukmejian tried to “stack the deck” by excluding some of the most vocal opponents of drilling.

“We were quite miffed and we really do think this is just one more dishonest attempt by the governor to select people who are not really representative of the feelings of the coast,” said Santa Cruz County Supervisor Gary A. Patton, a strong opponent of offshore drilling who was not allowed to attend the meeting.

Jananne Sharpless, state secretary of environmental affairs, who helped draw up the list of those invited, denied the charge, saying: “What we attempted to do was to get the best cross section both geographically and philosophically. There wasn’t any stacking of the deck one way or another.”

The meeting was the first Deukmejian has held with local officials on the drilling issue since Secretary of the Interior Donald P. Hodel announced in February that he would proceed with a five-year plan to open portions of California’s coastline to oil exploration.


Deukmejian lobbied successfully to end a four-year congressional moratorium on offshore drilling. But when Hodel began to push ahead with plans to lease coastal tracts, the governor threatened to sue, charging that the action would short-circuit a planning process established by Congress.

Deukmejian has since ordered a series of public hearings to gather opinion on the federal oil drilling plan before delivering his recommendations to Hodel in early May.

The 12 invited to Thursday’s meeting were selected by the governor’s office from a roster of officials representing 30 communities who have been meeting informally on the oil drilling question.

Wesley Chesbro, a Humboldt County supervisor who, like Patton, was not invited, charged that the two representatives chosen to represent his county favor drilling. “We think he’s been flip-flopping on the (oil drilling) issue,” Chesbro said of Deukmejian, adding that he believes that the meeting was merely an attempt to bolster the governor’s reelection effort.


Anna Sparks, a Humboldt County supervisor who attended the meeting, said she felt the makeup of the delegation was balanced. “There was pro-offshore and there were positions of anti-offshore,” she said.

In his remarks to the group, Sparks said, Deukmejian indicated that he will recommend that additional coastal areas be exempted from drilling.