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NRDC Statement On Bush Administration's Appeal Of Court Decision Protecting California Coast From New Offshore Oil Drilling

SAN FRANCISCO (January 10, 2002) -- In court papers released today, the Bush administration argues that the state of California should not have the right to review proposals for oil drilling off its coast. The administration is appealing U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken's ruling on June 22 that the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) illegally extended 36 undeveloped oil leases off the central California coast. Judge Wilken ruled that California was improperly denied a voice in deciding the fate of the leases. The appeal is being heard in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

"We are deeply disappointed that the Bush administration is trying to overturn California's victory in this case," said Drew Caputo, a senior attorney for NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council), which intervened on the state's side in the case along with other environmental groups. "The appeal signals two important, regrettable things. First, the administration is trying to make it easier to drill new oil wells off California's coast. Like the great majority of Californians, NRDC strongly opposes new oil drilling off our coast. The Bush administration ought to be working to protect California's coast, not to drill it.

"Second, President Bush has said repeatedly that he will respect local and state viewpoints on natural resource issues. But by seeking to overturn this federal court decision, the Bush administration is trying to trample on local wishes. When it comes to oil drilling, the administration apparently respects local voices only when they agree with the administration and the oil industry."

The Natural Resources Defense Council is a national, non-profit organization of scientists, lawyers and environmental specialists dedicated to protecting public health and the environment. Founded in 1970, NRDC has more than 500,000 members nationwide, served from offices in New York, Washington, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

NRDC's co-counsel in this offshore oil litigation is the Environmental Defense Center (EDC). EDC's attorney, Linda Krop, can be reached at 805-963-1622.

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