Environmental Defense Praises Court Decision on California Offshore Drilling

December 2, 2002

Richard Charter 707 875-2345/707 696-1363 <?xml:namespace prefix = o ns = “urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:office” />

Jeremy Carl 510 658-8008


(2 December 2002 — Oakland) Environmental Defense praised today’s decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco that upheld the state’s right to review proposed drilling plans for unused oil and gas leases off the coast of Central California.  Environmental Defense is an Amicus in a legal challenge being pursued by the State of California over 36 active-but-undeveloped offshore drilling leases near Pt. Conception.


“California’s rights have been protected today by this precedent-setting decision,” said Environmental Defense marine conservation advocate Richard Charter, “This is an important legal victory that validates the rights of all coastal states to review federal offshore drilling plans along their shores.”


In a 33 page opinion, the court wrote that the lease extensions proposed by the Interior Department “represent a significant decision to extend the life of oil exploration and production off of California’s coast, with all of the far reaching effects and perils that go along with offshore oil production.” It noted that the 36 leases “are located between the Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, which contain many species that are particularly sensitive to the impacts of spilled oil.”


Coastal states having a federally-approved coastal management plan are guaranteed the legal right to review the Department of Interior’s oil and gas drilling plans under the Coastal Zone Management Act.  The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has now upheld the right of the State of California to review proposals to develop these leases, some of which have been held by oil companies over the last 20 years but have never been developed.  Many of the oil companies have indicated that they would prefer that the federal government instead buy out their holdings so they can abandon the leases in question.  President Bush recently brokered a deal in Florida which similar undeveloped oil leases near the white sandy beaches of the Florida Panhandle were bought out and cancelled.  California has been asking for a similar arrangement, with no response from the Administration.