NRDC Statement on the Bush Administration's Appeal of U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken's Decision to Ban Drilling Off California's Coast

SAN FRANCISCO (August 20, 2001) - NRDC (Natural Resources Defense Council) criticized the Bush administration's decision to appeal a federal judge's ruling that makes it harder to drill new oil wells off the California coast. On June 22, U.S. District Judge Claudia Wilken ruled that the federal Minerals Management Service (MMS) illegally extended 36 undeveloped oil leases off the central California coast because it failed to comply with the Coastal Zone Management Act and the National Environmental Policy Act. The judge's order froze all activities on the leases and requires MMS to comply with federal environmental laws before moving forward with the leases. On Friday, the administration appealed the judge's decision to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco.

"The great majority of Californians want to protect our coast, not drill it," said NRDC Senior Attorney Drew Caputo. "Trying to overturn this decision shows just how out of step the Bush administration is with the needs and views of Californians.

"President Bush says he supports states' rights and local control. Then why does he oppose giving California the right to decide whether these oil leases should be extended? By appealing the judge's ruling, the administration is trying to take away the state's right to make that determination. It is hard to square the administration's rhetoric about states' rights with this appeal."

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.