Salazar May Delay Decision on Offshore Oil and Gas Drilling Ban Until 2012

September 19, 2009 - 2:38 PM
The Interior Department's five-year plan includes proposals to open 300 million acres offshore to drilling for oil and natural gas.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, center, flanked by his brother, Rep. John Salazar, D-Colo., left, and House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rep. Nick Rahall, D-W.Va., gestures during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, March 25, 2009, after the House passed the Omnibus Public Land Management Act of 2009. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

(CNSNews.com) – Monday, Sept. 21, is the deadline for public comment on the Interior Department’s five-year plan, which includes proposals to open 300 million acres off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and off the coast of Alaska to oil and natural gas drilling.
 
But don’t expect a decision any time soon, said Vince Haley, vice president of American Solutions, an organization founded by former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.
 
“This administration is certainly not accelerating the time period of making the releases (of oil and gas leases), selling the leases, getting them implemented and allowing the companies to get up and drilling,” Haley told CNSNews.com. “That is not going on. If anything, I think it could be fairly characterized as delaying and setting up obstacles to the start of off-shore production.”
 
In fact, a decision on offshore drilling may not come until 2012.
 
Last week, during a meeting with Alaska’s new governor, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said he hadn’t made up his mind yet on whether to allow offshore drilling -- and because of the way the deadlines fall, the department has until 2012 before it has to decide.
 
“Whether we take that long or not is something we'll decide based on the information we collected (during the comment period) and the analysis that's been done during this period,” Salazar said. “I haven't yet reached a decision on what the next steps are going to be.” 
 
Every day of inaction by the Interior Department is another day the ban on offshore drilling stays in effect, Haley said. In February, Salazar extended the public comment period for the five-year plan by six months, prolonging the ban.
 
“If an administration is committed to taking a ‘slow boat’ they can do all types of things to extend, delay, obfuscate and make it so you can’t drill, in any case,” Haley told CNSNews.com.
 
“That’s consistent with the ideological vision that this administration has,” he said. “Clearly they are ideologically opposed to the production of oil and natural gas. They have a view about climate change that makes oil and natural gas, frankly, a disfavored resource. They want to make energy in this country based on carbon fuels dramatically more expensive, under the theory that the government knows best about energy.”
 
Some offshore drilling is currently allowed, but the federal ban on most offshore drilling has stymied U.S. energy development for the last 25 years, according to Haley.
 
“Essentially the OCS – the Outer Continental Shelf – was restricted from oil and natural gas production for a quarter-century,” he said.
 
Last September, Congress allowed the ban on offshore drilling to expire – thanks to the widespread public outcry over high gasoline prices during the summer of 2008.
 
“The high gas and diesel prices of summer a year ago, which hit $4 a gallon on average, really aroused the public to demand that we take some steps to bring down the cost of transportations fuels,” Haley recounted. 

Offshore drilling was one of those steps, which garnered approval of more than 65 percent of the American public, according to some polls. 

In fact, 1.5 million people signed a “Drill Here, Drill Now” petition sponsored by his group, Haley said. 

Now American Solutions is calling for Americans to send in their comments to the Interior Department – while they still can.
 
If the U.S. continues to block or delay offshore energy exploration, the U.S. will continue to rely on foreign oil, making energy prices higher and affecting job creation and economic growth, Haley said.