July 1, 2004 - From the June, 2001 issue

California Given Authority To Review Federal Oil Leases Off Santa Barbara Coast

In a monumental victory for the Environmental Defense Center (EDC), Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and anti-oil activists across the State, a Federal judge has ruled that the Federal Government must cancel its extension of 36 undeveloped oil leases off the coast of Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo Counties, pending State review. The decision effectively puts a halt to current exploration plans underway in the Santa Barbara Channel. The case involved a dispute over whether the California Coastal Commission had jurisdiction to review requests for extensions of 36 undeveloped oil and gas leases off the coast of California. The leases were originally sold between 1968 and 1984, and were not subject to Commission review at that time. In November 1999, the Federal Government granted extensions for the 36 leases without consulting with the Coastal Commission. In response, the State of California, joined by the EDC and others, filed litigation against the Federal Government, raising claims of inadequate review under the Coastal Zone Management Act and National Environmental Policy Act. In January 2000, oil companies filed a motion to intervene in the State's lawsuit, which was granted by the court. The ruling will now allow the California Coastal Commission to review the possible impacts any new oil development may have on California's coastline. The decision comes just days after Interior Secretary Gale Norton, testifying at a recent House hearing, said the Administration will abide by moratoriums in effect until 2012 on leasing off much of the West Coast, but did not rule out resumption of oil and gas exploration off Santa Barbara where offshore areas are not covered by a leasing moratorium.

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