The staff of the Federal Trade Commission believes that the FTC "has sufficient legal authority to issue and enforce" an antitrust rule barring oil company ownership of petroleum pipelines.

In a letter to the commission, Alfred Dougherty Jr., director of the FTC's Bureau of Competition, said the existence of the FTC's pending antitrust case against eight major oil companies, which in part seeks pipeline divestiture, would not prevent the FTC from proceeding with a separate trade-rule action.

Dougherty warned the commission, however, that it should proceed carefully in developing a trade rule, because the issues involved "are exceedingly complex and . . . of much current debate."

In related oil pipeline news, the chairman of Standard Oil Co. of Ohio said he doubts the $1 billion oil pipeline from California to Texas will ever get off the drawing board.

"I don't think it's moving fast enough," Alton W. Whitehouse said yesterday. "Nothing has gone on in the past few months that changes my mind about our decision to cancel the project."

Sohio announced last March 13 that it was dropping its plans for the pipeline from Long Beach, Calif. to Midland, Tex. But Sohio agreed to reconsider the plan after various California and federal agencies promised to help resolve regulatory problems.

Whitehouse had blamed "endless government permit procedures, pending and threatened litigation" as the reasons for canceling the project.

But yesterday he said Sohio has received the promised help. Various bills have been introduced to grant President Carter the authority to give the necessary permits and clear some of the possible litigation against the pipeline.And nearly all 700 permits needed for the pipeline have been granted.