(Dow Jones Newswires), April 6, 2009
The U.S. has not ruled out opening new offshore territory to oil and gas exploration, U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told a roomful of lawmakers, environmental activists and ordinary citizens Monday.
Salazar was speaking in Atlantic City, N.J., at the start of a public meeting to discuss offshore energy development.
Congress last year let a moratorium on offshore drilling expire, which would greatly expand the area where the Interior Department can offer leases to oil and gas companies. Salazar is holding four public meetings around the country to seek public comment.
Many in attendance came to speak in opposition, claiming that drilling would pose a risk to the environment as well as tourism.
"I know there are some people who want us to close the door on oil and gas, but the reality is oil and gas (exists) in potentially significant (amounts), especially in the Gulf of Mexico," Salazar said. "Whether we open other areas is something to be decided based on these hearings."
Copyright (c) 2009 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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