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Fight continues over local offshore oil leases 

The U.S. Secretary of the Interior came out swinging in the umpteenth round in the fight over Central Coast offshore oil leases.

The secretary on Nov. 2 filed an appeal with the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals challenging an August ruling that the federal government can't immediately extend time on 37 oil and gas leases off Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, and Ventura county coastlines. That ruling specified that before extending the leases, the government must conduct an analysis of all the environmental impacts that could result from developing on the leases.

The offshore leases, some of which are nearly 40 years old, were given extensions in 1999 without an environmental review, according to the Santa Barbara-based Environmental Defense Center (EDC). In 2002, the appeals court directed the government to conduct environmental impact assessments before going forward with such extensions.

In August, the government submitted one such analysis, but environmental groups found it lacking in substance. A federal judge agreed and ordered the feds back to the drawing board.

"Extending these leases will result in increased risks of oil spills, as well as additional air and water pollution, and conflicts with our coastal tourism, recreation, and fishing industries," EDC Chief Counsel Linda Krop said in a statement.


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