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Governor now opposes T-Ridge offshore oil drilling

Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who proposed going forward with an oil-drilling project off the Santa Barbara coast to raise a $100 million annually for the strapped state, has changed his mind.

The Republican governor said that he now opposed the Tranquillon Ridge project, which involves slant drilling from an existing offshore platform, because it was too risky in light of the massive Deep Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

” My support for the T-Ridge project here in California was based on numerous studies that made me feel it was safe to drill, also the support of the environmental community, and a commitment to permanently remove the platforms,” he said.

“Despite those studies and support,” he added, “all of you have seen when you turn on your televisions the devastation in the Gulf and I’m sure that they were also assured that it is safe to drill. I see on TV the birds drenched in oil, the fisherman out of work the massive spill and oil slick destroying our precious eco system. It will not happen here in California and this is why I’m withdrawing my support for the T-ridge project,”  he said. The governor made the comments Monday at a briefing with state fire fighters.

Scuttling the project means that the proposed 2010-11 state budget leaves a $100 million hole for state parks, which the drilling program was intended to support.

“Now that he’s pulled that off the table, he’s got to find the money somewhere else,” said Fiona Hutton, a spokeswoman for a proposed November ballot initiative that would use an $18 fee on most vehicle registrations to keep state parks open. In return, day-use visitors to state parks would be allowed free admission.

The Tranquillon Ridge was rejected by the State Lands Commission last year and legislation to authorize the program stalled in the Legislature. The drilling project would bring in an estimated $1.8 billion to the state over 14 years.

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