North Coast closer to permanent protection

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Posted by on March 12, 2008 at 12:19:09:

Woolsey's bid to expand Farallones sanctuary from Marin to Mendocino would bar offshore drilling forever


In the battle against offshore oil drilling, Sonoma County for the first time has cleared a congressional hurdle on the path toward protecting its rugged coastline forever.

Tired of a patchwork approach to keeping oil companies out of offshore waters, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, D-Petaluma, is asking Congress to expand the Gulf of the Farallones National Marine Sanctuary northward from Marin County to Mendocino County, roughly doubling the sanctuary's size and permanently barring oil drilling.

A federal moratorium on oil and gas leasing has kept drilling out of much of California's offshore waters for 27 years, but extending it requires a yearly congressional vote.

A second federal moratorium offers backup, but it expires in four years, and can be undone by presidential order. President Bush lifted the ban for Bristol Bay, Alaska, in January 2007.

Congressional attempts to lift the annual moratorium off California's coast swell up from time to time, including a 2005 failed try by then Rep. Richard Pombo, R-Tracy.

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