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Oil: Yes on P, No on O

The scare tactics being used in the campaign to prohibit Occidental Petroleum Corp. from drilling two exploratory oil wells in Pacific Palisades include the claim that if the project is approved there will be no way to keep oil rigs out of Santa Monica Bay itself. But that argument is no more valid than to argue that cutting a tree on the outskirts of Eureka means that the Redwood National Park will be logged.

Offshore drilling in Santa Monica Bay should not occur and will not occur, whether the Occidental project is approved or rejected by voters in the Nov. 8 Los Angeles city election as they mark ballots on Propositions O and P. This applies not only to the near-shore area controlled by the state but also to the region beyond that is administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The drilling-in-the-bay argument is given credence in the television advertising of Occidental’s foes by Rep. Mel Levine (D-Santa Monica), who has battled tirelessly in Congress to preserve special areas of the California coast from offshore rigs. Levine has been a credible and effective leader for the California coast on this issue in Washington.

Levine’s campaign argument is that if Los Angeles voters approve the Occidental project, he and his allies no longer will be able to argue in Congress that Californians are united in opposition to offshore exploration and production. After all, the oil companies would say, if Angelenos are willing to have wells drilled right on the beach, what right do they have to keep them out of the bay? For one thing, the wells would not be on the beach, but on the inland side of the Pacific Coast Highway. They would not be drilled out into the bay, or even straight down, but slant-drilled even further inland. While there are strong indications of oil present beneath the bay, those deposits are not believed to be linked in any way to the Occidental oil sands. And there is considerable environmental and aesthetic difference between drilling on the inland side of the beach, as has been done many times in Southern California, and in the waters of the bay.

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In fact, the argument might just as well be made that the Palisades project might help forestall rigs off the coast. In recent years the oil companies have made considerable headway with many members of Congress by arguing that Californians consume massive quantities of gasoline in their millions of autos but are not willing to contribute their share of the nation’s energy supply. The Occidental project would demonstrate that Californians are not opposed to every energy project in their state.

The Times supports the project, as it has since 1977. We urge Los Angeles residents to vote Yes on Proposition P, the Occidental-sponsored initiative to allow the firm to proceed as already authorized by the Los Angeles City Council and the California Coastal Commission, and No on Proposition O, the opponents’ measure to repeal the council’s action and therefore prohibit the two exploratory wells.


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