Friday, July 29, 2005

Energy bill opens forst to redrilling

Although the federal Energy Bill does little to reduce dependence on foriegn oil and ANWR remains off-limits, some California forest land is being opened for drilling through other means.

After a decade of study, the federal government has decided to open 52,000 acres of the rugged Los Padres National Forest to oil and gas leasing.

Although more than half the acreage falls within roadless areas, the decision, announced Thursday by the U.S. Forest Service, bars any surface development in roadless portions of the Los Padres, which includes some of the wildest country in Southern California. Only slant drilling could occur under those areas, from wells on adjacent land.

Public opinion was strongly against any more energy leasing in the 1.76-million-acre national forest, which includes stunning coastal scenery, the watershed for Santa Barbara and habitat for 54 endangered California condors.

Los Padres Forest Supervisor Gloria Brown said she weighed the opposition against her agency's mandate that national forests serve multiple uses and concluded that some oil and gas development could occur without harming wildlife.