Michael S. Dukakis pledged Saturday to designate nearly two-thirds of the California coast, including Santa Monica Bay and the central and northern coasts “from Big Sur to the Oregon border,” as marine sanctuaries to prevent offshore oil drilling.
The proposal by the Democratic presidential nominee would mark a major reversal in federal policy toward the coastline and a huge, 85,000-square-mile expansion of the marine sanctuary program. Currently, the program in California applies only to seven smaller coastal areas, including the Channel Islands off Santa Barbara.
Dukakis pledged the new coastal protection program as he spoke to a cheering crowd of several thousand at a “Vote the Coast” rally near the Golden Gate Bridge. It was the third day of a campaign swing that has concentrated on retaking the initiative on environmental issues in the presidential campaign.
In addition to the coastal plan, Dukakis also announced support for pending federal legislation that would set up a pilot program for “cradle-to-grave” tracking of medical wastes in three Northeastern states. Medical wastes, including blood-stained syringes, repeatedly washed up on ocean beaches in the Northeast this past summer.
Comments on Noriega
In his speech, Dukakis also offered an oblique comment on recent reports that his opponent, Vice President George Bush, had put Panamanian Gen. Manuel A. Noriega back on the CIA payroll after Noriega had been removed.
“Maybe at the next debate we’ll get a few straight answers out of Mr. Bush” about Noriega, Dukakis said.
Saturday’s rally in San Francisco, which polls indicate may be the most pro-Dukakis major metropolitan area in the country, gave the candidate the sort of exuberant reaction that his low-key style seldom draws. Despite a damp chill and foggy morning by the bay, the crowd, dancing to tunes such as the Isley Brothers’ “Shout,” cheered loudly from the introduction by Sen. Alan Cranston and Rep. Barbara Boxer (D-Greenbrae) to the end of Dukakis’ remarks.
Bush, Dukakis said, “was a charter member of the environmental wrecking crew” that resisted regulation of toxic wastes and that “still supports drilling for offshore oil in the most environmentally sensitive areas of our coast.”
“George Bush is trying to throw his environmental record overboard in this campaign. My friends, that’s a case of ocean dumping we’re going to stop right now.”
Defends Harbor Record
Dukakis also defended his record on an environmental issue that Bush has used extensively in his advertisements--the polluted state of Boston Harbor.
“We’re cleaning up Boston Harbor,” he said, adding that the project, estimated to cost more than $5 billion, will be “the largest water cleanup” effort in American history.
Offshore drilling has been a potent political issue for years in California. Cranston attributes his 1986 reelection in part to the issue, which he used in mailings to registered Republicans who owned property along the coast.
Under the Reagan Administration’s five-year oil leasing program, much of the California coast would be opened to drilling. The Administration has planned two major oil lease sales, Lease Sale 95 off the coast south of Los Angeles and Lease Sale 91 off the northern coast.
Last June, just before the California primary, Bush said he favored postponing Lease Sale 91 to allow the next Administration to restudy it. Shortly afterward, Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel announced that the sale would be delayed.
Attacks Dukakis Stand
But in late August, Bush, in Texas, attacked Dukakis for opposing offshore drilling, saying that he supports it and calling the issue a “major difference” between the two.
The Administration argues that offshore drilling is needed to protect the country against dependence on oil imports.
Under Dukakis’ plan, both California lease sales would be cancelled. The marine sanctuary designation, which can be imposed by executive order, would prevent new drilling proposals in the area it covers. In addition, Dukakis said, he would seek legislation that would prevent any future Administration from reversing the sanctuary designation.
Designation as a marine sanctuary provides added protections for coastal areas by requiring additional planning and assessments before major new offshore development can go forward. The sanctuary designation covers the ocean from a point 3 miles offshore to the edge of U.S. territorial waters. Ocean resources within 3 miles of the shoreline are controlled by the state.
Bans Specific Activity
A sanctuary designation also can include a ban on specified activities. The sanctuary designation Dukakis has in mind would ban offshore drilling but no other specific actions, according to Dukakis aide Victoria Rideout.
Before San Francisco, Dukakis joined a group of elementary schoolchildren in a Sacramento park for a soccer game. Afterward, fifth-grader Collin Rose, who played goalie, said the Massachusetts governor “can kick hard” but was not the toughest opponent he had faced.
Asked if he wanted to see Dukakis win the election, young Rose said no. “He’s got a Republican father and a Democratic mother,” interjected his mother, Kathleen Rose. “Now,” she said, “say yes.”