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Coast Cities Plan Anti-Drilling Strategy : Environment: Lobbyist tells community officials that next few days are critical in effort against new offshore oil wells.

Convinced that President Bush is still undecided about whether to expand oil exploration off California, officials of Orange County’s coastal cities met Friday to devise a strategy for lobbying to gain a ban on further drilling.

City officials approved a statement announcing that they will reject “any decision by President Bush which makes the coast of Orange County a national sacrifice area for offshore drilling.”

The next few days are critical for Southern California cities interested in blocking the issuance of more drilling leases for offshore oil exploration, said Richard Charter, Director of the California Local Government Coordination Program.

“The President did say that his decision would come within days, not weeks,” said Charter, whose group lobbies against drilling at the request of county and local governments. “I would suggest that because this decision is still fluid . . . that you focus on your congressional delegation and the access that they may have” to the Bush Administration.

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Speaking to representatives of the Orange County Coalition of Coastal Cities, Charter said that city officials also should ask influential local residents to lobby against the drilling.

“This is the time for the economic interests of this community--people who may be from the tourism industry . . . or various contributors to campaigns--this is the time for them to weigh in, this is the time for them to make that call,” Charter told the dozen or so mayors, city managers and council representatives from coastal areas.

Among the suggestions made at the meeting was that city officials contact hotel owners and large developers, and that they raise the issue at council meetings. Also recommended were meetings with Reps. C. Christopher Cox (R-Newport Beach) and Ronald Packard (R-Carlsbad) and with Board of Supervisors staff members to discuss additional action on the issue.

According to Charter, one of the most likely scenarios is the leasing of only specific ocean tracts deemed highly productive and not environmentally sensitive. This way, he said, the President could emphasize that large stretches of shoreline will not be leased to oil and gas companies.

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Another possible scenario is the division of sections of the California coast into three separate categories: permanent protection from drilling, protection from leasing until the year 2000 and eligibility for the current leasing program. If placed on the current leasing list, offshore drilling could begin by 1995.

Charter noted that with the governor’s race heating up, there is considerable pressure for Bush to maintain state backing for Republican candidate Pete Wilson. With a concentration of Republicans in Orange County, a decision to expand drilling could have repercussions in November, he said.

He also reminded officials that coastal communities have some control over land issues. Since municipalities have the authority to ban onshore industrial sites, some oil and gas companies say that it would be difficult to set up drill sites where there would be limited access to nearby industrial facilities, he said.


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