New Interior Secretary rejects plan for offshore oil, gas drilling

02/10/09 Mitch E. Perry
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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has rejected a Bush administration plan to open vast waters off the Pacific and Atlantic coasts to oil and gas drilling.

Speaking to reporters on a conference call, the former Colorado senator blasted the process with which the previous administration went about making such a decision.

Salazar said that despite the enormous sweep of the proposal to open up as many as 300-million acres to oil and gas leasing, the Bush administration’s notice called for the completion of all hearings by March 23rd.

Secretary Salazar introduced four specific steps – such as extending the public comment period on the plan for six months and ordering his experts to compile a report on the Outer Continental Shelf, or OCS’s energy potential.

The Bush administration had authorized the Interior Department to open areas off both coasts to oil and natural gas drilling during a five-year period. That move came after a moratorium on drilling there expired last year. Offshore drilling is already allowed in the Gulf of Mexico.

Salazar said that those representing the oil and gas industries will have a seat the table, but that the Obama administration wants a comprehensive energy plan, and not the “drill, baby , drill" mantra that was embraced by the GOP last fall.

Salazar says he’ll host four regional meeting around the country in upcoming months to gather the best ideas to move forward on the OCS.

Salazar was critical of the Bush administration’s lack of commitment on a bill that Congress passed which required the Department of Interior to move quickly and issue within nine month the final rules with respect to renewable energy resources in the OSC.

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