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Anti-Drilling Measure Flawed, Opponents Say

Times Staff Writer

Opponents of a voter initiative to prevent oil drilling in the Pacific Palisades contended Thursday that the ballot measure would actually permit “subsurface” drilling under every beach in Los Angeles.

Proposition O, sponsored by Councilmen Marvin Braude and Zev Yaroslavsky, would prohibit drilling from any surface location within 1,000 yards of the mean high tide line. But language contained in the anti-drilling measure also could conceivably permit an oil company to sink a well outside the 1,000-yard boundary and slant drill toward the ocean, a top Braude aide acknowledged.

At a press conference Thursday, Proposition O opponents William Robertson and James Blancarte singled out this provision as one of several “exceptions” that show the measure seeks to protect only the Palisades from shoreline drilling rigs. Braude, Yaroslavsky and other backers said the measure offers protection to most of the city’s coastline.

Braude’s chief deputy, Cindy Miscikowski--a co-author of Proposition O--insisted that any slant drilling into beach areas was unlikely because drilling opponents would fight such a move. She called charges that beach drilling would be allowed “ridiculous and strange.”

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To argue their case, Robertson and Blancarte referred to a provision in Proposition O that specifically exempts from its 1,000-yard drilling-zone prohibitions “subsurface drilling and producing operations more than 500 feet below the surface of this area.”

To Robertson, executive secretary of the County Federation of Labor, the Proposition O language “will allow oil drilling 500 feet under any beach in Los Angeles.”

Blancarte, a city fire commissioner and like Robertson one of the five “sponsors” of rival Proposition P, said the language “is designed to deceive not only the people, but even members of the press into believing (Proposition O) is protecting the entire coastline.”

For months, proponents of Proposition P--backed principally with Occidental Petroleum Corp. funds--have charged that Proposition O does not protect the coastline because it exempts from its 1,000-yard drilling ban decades-old oil operations on Venice Beach and in Los Angeles Harbor. Proposition O’s sponsors contend that they had no choice but to exempt the existing oil wells because of the individual companies’ vested rights in their projects.

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It was not until recently, however, that drilling proponents focused on the Proposition O language concerning possible new subsurface drilling into the coastal zone.

Miscikowski said the language was inserted to avoid legal challenges against the 1,000-yard drilling-free zone.


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