Apparently trying to further broaden his appeal beyond his conservative base, Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich is endorsing Proposition O, the Los Angeles city ballot measure designed to prevent oil drilling in Pacific Palisades.
During his eight years as supervisor, Antonovich has never taken a position on the controversial project until now. The Palisades site, where Occidental Petroleum Corp. for years has been seeking approval to drill, is not in Antonovich’s district.
But the supervisor, conservative on most issues, is locked in a bitter election battle with former Supervisor Baxter Ward, who has been endorsed by the Sierra Club and numerous environmentalists.
Antonovich said he is endorsing Proposition O and opposing Proposition P, which would permit Palisades drilling, because he believes drilling in the Palisades could be dangerous.
“Occidental Petroleum’s proposal to drill 60 wells next to an earthquake fault in an area next to a landslide and (near) one of the most popular beaches, in my opinion, is a bad idea,” said Antonovich, who will speak against the project Monday at a congressional hearing in Santa Monica.
Some environmentalists, however, criticized Antonovich’s new environmental stance as a campaign ploy.
“It’s too little and too late to polish up that tarnished record of his,” said Elden Hughes, immediate past chair of the Los Angeles chapter of the Sierra Club, which has 53,000 members.
Last month, the Sierra Club and other environmentalists accused Antonovich of trying to falsely portray himself as a defender of the environment.
Bob Hattoy, the Sierra Club’s Southern California and Nevada regional director, however, was more conciliatory Friday.
“It’s interesting all these Republicans are becoming born-again environmentalists, but we welcome them,” he said.
Antonovich said he had never taken a position on the 20-year-old drilling controversy because the issue was a city matter that never came before the Board of Supervisors. He said he decided to speak up because the issue will finally be resolved by the voters.
“I’ve never been involved because it was defeated and then resurrected and then defeated and then resurrected, and it finally came to a head,” Antonovich said.
Proposition O backers hailed Antonovich’s move into their camp.
“We’re pleased to have his support. This is a decision he made on his own,” City Councilman Zev Yaroslavsky said.
Karin Caves, Proposition O’s spokeswoman, said Antonovich approached the campaign a couple of weeks ago to offer his endorsement.
“It shows an unprecedented level of support for Proposition O to stop Occidental Petroleum from drilling next to our beaches,” Caves said. “It’s also a clear signal that conservatives and liberals are united in opposition to oil drilling on the coast.”
Mickey Kantor, chief spokesman for the pro-drilling measure, said: “We’re surprised he would support a measure which allows drilling under every beach in the city of Los Angeles in the coastal zone and on the shores of Los Angeles harbor.”
Proposition O, co-sponsored by Councilmen Yaroslavsky and Marvin Braude, would rescind three 1985 ordinances permitting Occidental Petroleum to drill up to 60 wells on a two-acre site across from Will Rogers State Beach in Pacific Palisades. The anti-drilling measure also would create a drilling-free zone 1,000 yards inland from the mean high tide line along the city’s coastline.
Heavily backed by Occidental, Proposition P would preserve the three drilling ordinances and would also establish a fund--based on the amount of oil produced at the site--for toxic waste enforcement.