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Byline: Paul Rogers
SAN JOSE, Calif. _ In a major victory for environmental groups and Gov. Gray Davis, a federal appeals court on Monday blocked new offshore oil drilling along the California coastline, siding with state officials in their two-year battle with the Bush administration.
Ruling unanimously, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said that the Bush administration cannot extend leases for oil companies to pursue drilling in 36 ocean areas off San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties unless the California Coastal Commission is allowed to review, and potentially stop, the leases from going forward.
Simply put, the decision means that oil companies may never be allowed to drill in the areas, given that the Coastal Commission is almost certain to oppose new drilling.
The main way drilling could go forward in that case is if President Bush invokes an obscure section of federal law stating the drilling "is in the paramount interest of the United States" and forces it over California's objections.
Because the …