Interior Secretary Donald Hodel has put into effect a new five-year leasing plan for oil and gas exploration on the Outer Continental Shelf, the department announced.
Hodel's approval means that the schedule of lease sales and areas that may be offered are fixed and may be changed only by sale. Hodel made no changes from the final draft published in April.
Areas that he has ruled closed to exploration may not be opened until the next five-year plan, although additional areas may be ruled off-limits in the 38 upcoming auctions.
Federal offshore leasing, often opposed by environmentalists worried about spills and by onshore interests concerned about the impacts on coastal communities, has been controversial for decades, particularly since a major oil spill near Santa Barbara, Calif., in 1969.
California opponents are seeking a way to close most of their coast, although they did not seek an appropriations ban this year that would prohibit the department from spending money to offer the area for sale.
In Los Angeles, the department issued its call for information and nomination of tracts by the industry for a September 1989 sale of tracts off California.
The southern California area, originally 30.9 million acres, was reduced by Hodel to 14.4 million acres, and the department's Minerals Management Service has further reduced the area of potential drilling to about 5 million acres, a department spokesman said.
The first sale under the new five-year plan will be held in New Orleans next month, an offering of tracts in the western Gulf of Mexico.