Interior Secretary Ken Salazar indicated on Tuesday that he intends to scrap the Bush administration’s leasing plan that would have opened the coasts to drilling, even as he said the Obama administration is open to some expanded development of offshore oil and gas fields.
The Bush administration’s DOI issued a draft of a five-year leasing plan several days before leaving office, following on the expiration of the outer continental shelf moratorium last fall. But Salazar told the Associated Press that his department plans to work with Congress to craft “a plan that makes sense” for offshore oil and gas development in the context of a broader energy policy.
Though he didn’t elaborate on areas that might be off-limits, Salazar advocated for some level of protection, which is an improvement, since currently there is nothing protecting the coasts. “There are places that are appropriate for exploration and development and there are places that are not,” he said.
Today’s Wall Street Journal chose to focus on Salazar’s refusal to rule out trying to reinstitute the offshore drilling ban. Under the headline “Offshore Drilling on the Table” (sub. req’d.), the newspaper reported:
“Asked about the Bush administration’s proposal to open certain areas of the East and West coasts to drilling and whether he saw any opportunities for expanded development of the nation’s offshore areas, Mr. Salazar said: “When you look at the whole [outer continental shelf], it’s a huge potential. And it has to be done carefully. We don’t want to ruin the beaches of Florida and the coastlines of other places that are sensitive. On the other hand, there are places where it may be appropriate for us to have reconnaissance and exploration and even development. Those are questions that we are exploring and hopefully over the months ahead we’ll have answers to these questions.”
In a briefing with reporters today, Salazar also said he would conduct a review of corruption charges in the department, focusing on the “sex, drugs and inappropriate gifts” scandal that involved both political and career employees.
He said he would visit the Lakewood, Colo., office that oversees oil and gas royalty collections on Thursday, the site of the aforementioned scandal. He also said that investigations closed by the Bush administration may be reopened.