Sec. Salazar Details Strategy for US Offshore Drilling Plan

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar
(Click to Enlarge)

Saying he needed to restore order to a broken process, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar today announced his strategy for developing an offshore energy plan that includes both conventional and renewable resources.

His strategy calls for extending the public comment period on a proposed 5-year plan for oil and gas development on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf by 180 days, assembling a detailed report from Interior agencies on conventional and renewable offshore energy resources, holding four regional conferences to review these findings, and expediting renewable energy rulemaking for the Outer Continental Shelf.

"To establish an orderly process that allows us to make wise decisions based on sound information, we need to set aside the Bush Administration's midnight timetable for its OCS drilling plan and create our own timeline," Salazar said.

On Friday, January 16, its last business day in office, the Bush Administration proposed a new five year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing. The proposal was actually published in the Federal Register on January 21, the day after the new Administration took office.
The deadline for public comment that the Bush Administration established -- March 23, 2009 -- does not provide enough time for public review or for wise decisions on behalf of taxpayers, the Secretary said.

"The additional time we are providing will give states, stakeholders, and affected communities the opportunity to provide input on the future of our offshore areas," he said. "The additional time will allow us to restore an orderly process to our offshore energy planning."

Salazar said this evaluation of the proposed plan also needed better information about what resources may be available in the offshore areas. "In the biggest area that the Bush Administration's draft OCS plan proposes for oil and gas drilling -- the Atlantic seaboard, from Maine to Florida -- our data on available resources is very thin, and what little we have is twenty to thirty years old," he said. "We shouldn't make decisions to sell off taxpayer resources based on old information."

Salazar directed the United States Geological Survey, the Minerals Management Service, and other departmental scientists to assemble all the information available about the offshore resources -- conventional and renewable -- along with information about potential impacts. The report is due in 45 days.

Based on that report, the Department will then determine what areas need more information and create a plan for gathering that information. The Department of the Interior oversees more than 1.7 billion acres on the Outer Continental Shelf -- an area roughly three fourths of the size of the entire United States.

"To gather the best ideas for how we accomplish the task of gathering the offshore information we need, I will convene four regional meetings in the 30 days after MMS and USGS publish their report," Salazar said. "I will host one meeting in Alaska, one on the Pacific Coast, one on the Atlantic Coast, and one on the Gulf Coast." Salazar will ask all interested parties for their recommendations on how to move ahead with a comprehensive offshore energy plan.

The Secretary also will build a framework for offshore renewable energy development, so that the Department can incorporate the significant potential for wind, wave, and ocean current energy into its offshore energy strategy. "The Bush Administration was so intent on opening new areas for oil and gas offshore that it torpedoed offshore renewable energy efforts," Salazar said.

As a senator, Salazar helped to craft and pass the Energy Policy Act of 2005 which required Interior to move quickly and issue, within 9 months, rules and regulations to guide the development of offshore energy resources, such as wind, wave, and tidal power. It took three years for the Bush Administration to prepare a proposed rule for offshore renewable energy development. They left office without putting any final regulations in place because it was not their priority, Salazar said, notwithstanding the requirement of the law.

"I intend to issue a final rulemaking for offshore renewables in the coming months, so that potential developers know the rules of the road," Salazar said. "This rulemaking will allow us to move from the 'oil and gas only' approach of the previous Administration to the comprehensive energy plan that we need."

"We need a new, comprehensive energy plan that takes us to the new energy frontier and secures our energy independence," Salazar said. "We must embrace President Obama's vision of energy independence for the sake of our national security, our economic security, and our environmental security."

By adding the 180 day extension to the original 60-day period, interested parties will have had a total of 240 days (8 months) to comment on the proposed plan. The current comment period opened on January 21, 2009.


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Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of Rigzone. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
George Brown | Feb. 11, 2009
I have worked in the offshore oil and gas industry all my life, I am an educated man and understand the need to use my common sense. I fish and and eat where I work, and I have never in my travels known women and men more protective of there environment. Renewable energy is not a distant dream at this point in time. 180 days is not unreasonable but continuing to be dependent on others for my needs I was taught not to do. This country will not survive if it continues to do so. Most of the world knows that we have the ability and the resources to have both hydrocarbon and renewable energy and that if we used them we would be stronger than ever. Why not put it all to work?

John Faseler | Feb. 11, 2009
1) Sounds like the plan is "delay, stall, and drag our feet as much as possible".

2) The anti-drilling groups on both coasts have had YEARS to come up with something more substantive than "we don't want to look at the platforms, they're ugly", another 6 months wont make a difference.

3) The best way to "gather more information" about what reserves may or may not be there is 3-D seismic. If Dept. of the Interior is willing to fund it, fine. But since they're expecting US (the oil companies) to fund it, they'd better be willing to sell us some leases to do it on.

Barry J.Zeringue | Feb. 11, 2009
We need to drill. They have a lot of oil and gas in the G.O.M., and it will put people back to work. If the New President wants to help our people and put us to work, let's get the oil industry back.

M. G. | Feb. 11, 2009

Lloyd Hren | Feb. 11, 2009
Yes, once again the Democrats want to put an end to developing our own natural resources. The more we wait to find oil & gas the more we are indebted to the Arabs.

David G. Williams | Feb. 11, 2009
The most effective, quickest way to increase employment is to open up offshore and onshore leases for drilling without further delays. In addition to creating immediate jobs, this will further decrease our requirements for foreign oil!

Carlos E. Mateus | Feb. 11, 2009
Why is 240 days better than 60 days? Why take 240 days when the work can be done in 60 days? This is a bureaucratic move to say CHANGE is taking place. The right amount of time needs be determined by the experts and not by the politicians who only think about creating the opportunity without considering the overall benefit of doing things expeditiously. "The additional time we are providing will give states, stakeholders, and affected communities the opportunity to provide input on the future of our offshore areas."

Robert Whitfield | Feb. 11, 2009
It appears that indecision is becoming the the "ear mark" of this administration along with the Treasury Depts lack of action... as usual, nothing will be done in the foreseeable future!

Alan | Feb. 11, 2009
Why do we say we want energy independence and at the same time restrict our oil and gas activities to limited places( GoM and Alaska mostly)? It reminds me of the "I want my cake and eat it too" phrase.

Thomas Williams | Feb. 11, 2009
Salazar (it is stated) helped craft the Energy Policy Act, perhaps one of the worst legislation since the current bailout boondoggle. I hope he is proud of the corn to ethanol section, and the other items in that Bill that only helped to increase the energy cost to consumers and did nothing to decrease energy independence or protect our environment. He and this administration are obliged to the environmental movement and global warming zealots (Browner et al), and will do everything they can to prevent needed oil and natural gas from being developed in our country. The public needs to bombard MMS for the extended 5 year plan comment period on why we need to explore, drill and produce our natural resources offshore.

Ken Singh | Feb. 11, 2009
I like the plan. It takes advantage of time arising from the depressed energy prices to assemble a robust strategy. The strategy should be global in outlook by sending a clear and decisive message to the holders of game changing reserves that the G 20 countries are not prepared to be price takers but that a fair and balanced market must prevail for both buyers and sellers.

Larry Seguin | Feb. 11, 2009
Off course with the new technology there will be plenty of natural gas from Maine to Florida. We know from the results in Canada. I have worked all over the world in the oil and gas business. I worked 2 years in the development of one of the largest gas fields in the world. I am now working in Saudi offshore and the same results and reserves are here. These kinds of fields are all over the world. Shell is opening the first new refinery in Quatar.(Natural gas, producing car gas and diesel fuel) The shell refinery in Houston is being converted to do the same. Other companies will follow. No-one knows the reserves of natural gas in the world. It is unlimited. Oil will fall below $20.00 per barrel. Oil is only needed for lubricants and the manufacturing of plastics, etc.

Ernest Nickel | Feb. 11, 2009
Economically feasible is the word. Oil and Gas will always play a role in the future and cannot be discounted. We need to be energy independent. Green energy is also a good idea with many options. Coal cannot be discounted either. But we need big finds offshore/onshore and also in Alaska. Electric vehicles are out of reach for most people. Gas/propane vehicles seem a logical choice.

Ernie W. Pickett | Feb. 11, 2009
Only Washington politicians can move with the pace of a snail, and attribute it to being better informed. The Atlantic Coast environmentalists have had many years to research the adverse effects of offshore drilling, and if they do not know now they probably never will.

Kevin Kelley | Feb. 11, 2009
Under this proposed change in policy it will be years before anything is done to exploit our offshore oil & gas resources. We need to move forward today so that we will have the supplies necessary for the future.

Kirby Arceneaux | Feb. 10, 2009
It is imperative that we search for oil & gas in areas of our own country that have been off limits. We need to do everything in our power to stop buying oil on the open market from countries that despise us. We've been selling our soul to the devil for too long and it's time we stop.

Mike Oller | Feb. 10, 2009
I feel that yes, the United States needs to think about cleaner energy, but with all the hype, I have only heard one decent plan to go greener in America and work towards our energy independence: The T Boone Pickens plan. With all the money our government is wanting to spend on pork barrel spending, we could develop and put in place the plan that Mr. Pickens has come up with! We in America have a tremendous amount of natural resources here, both clean and conventional that we should be using, instead of depending on the middle east.

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