With an earlier federal appeals court decision authorizing its review of the matter, the California Coastal Commission Thursday voted unanimously to oppose federal efforts to extend three dozen oil/natural gas leases off the state’s central coast from Oxnard north to San Luis Obispo.

The 12-member coastal panel headed by an appointee of Republican Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger concluded that federal authorities have “failed to provide sufficient information” on the potential for oil spills and other environmental risks, according to a report Friday in the Los Angeles Times. The dispute involves 36 offshore oil tracts that were leased to companies decades ago but never developed.

While the rest of California’s coastline is protected from a moratorium on drilling imposed by Congress and a Presidential order, the 36 central coast leases were completed before the moratorium was in place.

With emphasis in the new 2005 federal Energy Policy Act to step up domestic energy production and with the price of oil and natural gas at unprecedented levels, the exploration/development companies want to drill on the previously unused leases. But the coastal commission’s vote Thursday authorizes the panel to return to court immediately, if the federal officials ignore the panel’s objections, the LA Times reported.

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