The U.S. Interior Department's Minerals Management Service
(MMS) announced it will delay its decision on whether oil companies can drill for oil and natural gas off California's coast, until August 16, 1999.
The MMS was scheduled to decide by June 30 if drilling would be allowed on 40 undeveloped leases off the central coast of California, but said it needs more time to review the oil company requests.
The plans to drilling offshore California are receiving opposition from California
Gov. Gray Davis, who opposes any expanded offshore drilling, and Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), who asked the Interior Department this week to deny the oil company requests.
The leases were suspended by the MMS in 1993, pending the completion of a study to assess the environmental impact of developing the tracts. That study will be finished later this summer.
Oil companies paid more than $1 billion from the late 1960s to the mid 1980s for the right to drill on the leases. The tracts were exempt from the Clinton administration's ban last year against new oil drilling.
If drilling is allowed by the MMS, oil companies could begin developing the tracts later this year and the first of four proposed offshore oil platforms
could be ready by 2005.