Election Section

Davis, senators repeat call for Bush to buy oil leases of state’s coast

By Jim Wasserman, The Associated Press
Saturday June 15, 2002

SACRAMENTO — Rejected once already, Gov. Gray Davis and California Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein repeated a call Friday for President Bush to buy 36 undeveloped oil leases off California’s coast. 

In a letter to Bush, nearly three weeks after he announced a $120 million federal buyout of Florida oil leases, the state’s top Democrats wrote, “Your recent actions in Florida are nearly identical to proposals that we have made to resolve the analogous situation in California.” 

Noting potential for more oil development off Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo counties, the letter stated, “The threat this development poses to Californians’ quality of life and the state’s tourism-based economy parallels the threats Florida faced.” 

Rep. Lois Capps, a Democrat from Santa Barbara, scene of a 1969 oil spill from offshore drilling, also signed the letter. 

Davis’ request is “hypocritical,” said a spokesman for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bill Simon. 

“The Bush administration has offered before to sit down with Governor Davis and negotiate on buying back the leases and the governor chose not to,” said Jeff Flint, a Simon aide. “He’s totally hypocritical on the issue.” 

The plea to Bush followed similar May 29 letters, in which Boxer and Davis urged Bush to repeat in California what he did in the Everglades of Florida, where his brother, Jeb Bush, is governor. President Bush also allocated $115 million to pay oil companies to drop their drilling plans in the Gulf of Mexico. 

The Democrats’ request was called premature and rejected June 7 by U.S. Interior Secretary Gale Norton. She wrote, “A major difference between Florida and California is that Florida opposes coastal drilling and California does not.” 

Norton cited the 77 state and federal leases off the California coastline, where more than 260 new wells have been drilled since 1990. But Davis countered that the new drilling occurred from existing offshore platforms where leases date back nearly 50 years. 

In a letter to Norton on Friday, Davis said, “Ever since the devastating oil spill near Santa Barbara in 1969, Californians have vehemently opposed new offshore drilling. Not a single lease has been issued since 1968. 

“Protecting the California coast for future generations is too important a matter to be subjected to bureaucratic delay and legal delays,” Davis wrote Norton. 

Davis on Friday also announced new beach cleanup funding as part of his Clean Beaches Initiative. Simon, meanwhile, criticized Davis for “mismanagement of state beaches,” noting an increase in beach closures and advisories in California.