The U.S. Interior Department suspended
36 oil leases
in California's offshore waters and ordered a review of the impact the drilling would have on the environment. The environmental reviews on each lease will reportedly take 18 to 45 months.
A department official said that the decision reflects a commitment to protect California's marine and coastal environment.
Many California residents
oppose offshore drilling, remembering the 1969 oil spill off Santa Barbara that spoiled miles of beach and killed hundreds of birds.
Because the oil companies holding the leases are planning new or revised oil exploration, development and production activities, no drilling can take place until the environmental impact analysis is finished, the companies' drilling plans are made public, and the drilling is deemed consistent with California law, officials said.
Oil firms paid more than $1 billion two decades ago for the right to drill on the leases, located off Ventura, Santa Barbara and San Luis Obispo coastal counties in Southern California.