An environmentalist told a federal hearing into offshore oil leases that the Interior Department has ignored a study warning of earthquake danger off Northern California.
Richard Charter, an environmental consultant to California coastal governments, said the 1980 U.S. Geological Survey study predicts offshore earth tremors strong enough to dislodge oil platforms and pipelines, causing massive oil spills.He spoke at a hearing by the department's Mineral's Management Service. The hearing, in addition to one held earlier in Fort Bragg, was required as part of a government plan that could lead to the first-ever oil drilling off Northern California by 1989.
Cyril Bird, chief of the department's Office of Resource Evaluation, said the department was aware of the study. He said it was acknowledged in a 1986 assessment of geological risks in the North Coast leasing area, which includes 1.1 million acres off Mendocino and Humboldt Counties.
Geological hazards "could prevent drilling on a lease," said Mr. Bird.
Mr. Bird said some of the earthquake hazards can be avoided by proper engineering of oil platforms and pipelines, but that risks could rule out drilling altogether in certain areas.
He discounted charges that the geologic hazards jeopardize the entire lease sale.
"We have several major oil fields located on fault lines in Southern California and a lot of faults that move in the Santa Barbara Channel," he said.