Jane Van Ryan
Posted March 29, 2010
Within the next few days, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is expected to announce his decision on America's offshore leasing program. In case you haven't been following this story closely, here's some background information.
- A few months ago, a federal court ordered the Interior Department (DOI) to re-examine its current 2007-2012 five-year offshore leasing plan, saying that the environmental impact analysis was insufficient. The court allowed Gulf of Mexico leasing to continue, but put Alaskan leasing on hold.
- Lease Sale 220, which involves the leasing of acreage 50 miles off Virginia's coast, is contained in the disputed plan and is scheduled for 2011. Last week Liz Birnbaum, director of the Minerals Management Service (MMS), said the Virginia lease sale also is being re-evaluated.
- Sec. Salazar has told reporters that he's likely to announce the 2007-2012 plan re-evaluation at the same time he releases details of the upcoming 2012-2017 offshore drilling plan. According to reports, he plans to roll some sales included in the current plan into the 2012-2017 leasing program, which could delay several lease sales until after the 2012 presidential election.
During the past few days, members of Congress have penned letters stating their positions on offshore energy development. In mid-March, 88 Republican House members sent a letter to Sec. Salazar urging him to end the de facto "Obama Moratorium" on offshore leasing.
The letter says 68 percent of Americans support offshore energy development, adding, "It should be the policy of the Administration to execute the will of Congress and the American people."
Taking the opposing view, 10 Democrat Senators are pushing for restrictions on offshore drilling. In a letter to the three U.S. senators who are working on climate legislation, they also said they do not support the sharing of offshore leasing revenue with the states. (Platts)
The economic importance of Sec. Salazar's upcoming decision cannot be overstated.
If he moves forward with offshore drilling, the oil and natural gas industry will be able to make investments that could create thousands of jobs, raise money for the federal, state, and local governments and help the economy grow. If he delays offshore development, the administration will miss the opportunity to put people back to work.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR