Environment: The Offshore-Oil Debate

Not since the giant Alaska-pipeline debate of 1970 has the U.S. Interior Department run into such resistance. The issue this time is whether potential oil reserves on the continental shelf off three "frontier" areas—Alaska, the West Coast and the Atlantic seaboard —should be developed as those in the Gulf of Mexico have been. Last week, after a series of public hearings with Governors, Congressmen and other interested citizens from the states that would be affected, Interior officials were still smarting from the criticism.

They had called the hearings ostensibly to discuss the department's "preliminary impact statement"—a 1,200-page document that reports on the...

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