Your editorial "Guarding Our Coasts" (May 1) is off base in praising a recent federal court decision upholding local ordinances which the Interior Department and oil industry believe violate the U.S. Constitution. The Times seems to misunderstand the thrust of these ordinances and industry's reasons for challenging them.
The oil industry does not deny that state and local governments have the right to impose conditions on onshore activities associated with offshore drilling. But the intent of the local ordinances goes far beyond attempting to impose certain conditions. They are part of a well-orchestrated attempt to block new offshore development on the federal outer continental shelf along a large portion of the California coast.
In a 1986 news release announcing a proposed ordinance in San Diego, later enacted by the City Council, Deputy Mayor Ed Struiksma described the measure as a "wide-ranging and vigorous strategy to prevent offshore oil drilling in the San Diego area." This philosophy was evident when other coastal cities and counties enacted similar ordinances in 1986-87 as part of a coordinated campaign to devise new vehicles for thwarting federal offshore development.
These measures were not enacted in a spirit of cooperation, but instead were aimed at erecting a wall against offshore development along much of the California coastline.
The oil industry has demonstrated it is prepared to cooperate with state and local agencies in carrying out offshore oil development projects. Your editorial, in fact, refers to a recent compromise worked out between Exxon and Santa Barbara County.
While we agree with your assessment that negotiation and cooperation are the best way to handle the offshore oil development issue, we ask The Times this question: How does one negotiate or cooperate with a local jurisdiction dedicated to enacting an initiative to "fight the unwelcome incursion of offshore drilling?"
The industry will continue to cooperate with local officials to ensure that the nation's offshore energy resources are developed in a safe, environmentally responsible manner and in compliance with conditions imposed by local jurisdictions. But, a spirit of cooperation must also be demonstrated by local communities if the offshore oil issue is to be resolved with the best interests of all Californians--and all Americans--in mind.
Western Oil and Gas Assn.