Assembly Democrats Hit Bush on Offshore Drilling

Times Staff Writer

In graphic terms, Assembly Speaker Willie Brown (D-San Francisco) and half a dozen Democrats from coastal districts Thursday blasted the Bush Administration's plan for more offshore oil drilling and threatened to mount an initiative drive to stop it.

Brown said anybody--including Gov. George Deukmejian--who supports expanded drilling is "rather dumb to be advocating it."

But the harshest criticism came from Assemblywoman Jackie Speier, a Democrat from South San Francisco. She accused Bush of portraying himself as an environmentalist during his quest for the presidency, only to flip-flop after taking office in January.

"George Bush was our dutiful suitor when he was campaigning for election," Speier said. "Now he has rebuked us without even a kiss, and he has brought in his thugs to rape us."

Moratorium Proposal Criticized

Speier was referring to speeches Tuesday by Interior Secretary Manuel Lujan Jr. and Energy Secretary James D. Watkins at a meeting of Western governors hosted by Deukmejian in Long Beach. The two Cabinet members contended that offshore oil drilling is the only way America can become energy self-sufficient. And they criticized congressional efforts to place a moratorium on new offshore operations.

But the Assembly Democrats, representing districts from San Diego to Mendocino, said there is far more oil to be recovered from inland Kern County reserves than ever could be pumped from beneath the ocean floor.

Assemblyman Tom Hayden (D-Santa Monica) said Deukmejian's pattern of reducing the state Coastal Commission's budget has left California without an adequate plan to prevent oil spills or clean them up once they happen. Hayden said lawmakers frustrated by the governor's policies might fall back on a ballot initiative.

Hayden said the initiative, which is not yet drafted, might try to create an "absolute sanctuary" in which new drilling would be prohibited. The initiative also would ensure that "there is a protection plan in place that puts the strictest possible requirements on the oil industry and its tankers that ply in California waters," he said.

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