US Interior Department to Go Ahead with Offshore Drilling Plan

WASHINGTON (Dow Jones Newswires), Jan. 22, 2009

A proposal issued in the final days of the Bush administration to expand offshore drilling in previously banned areas will move forward under the administration of U.S. President Barack Obama, Reuters reported Wednesday, citing Interior Department Spokesman Hugh Vickery.

The department has been notified by the White House that it will be able to proceed with a proposed draft of a five-year plan to lease areas in the Atlantic and Pacific waters for oil and natural gas drilling, the news agency reported Vickery as saying.

Shortly after being sworn in Tuesday, Obama ordered all federal agencies and departments to halt pending regulations until they can be reviewed by incoming staff.

The preliminary plan would authorize 31 energy exploration lease sales between 2010 and 2015 for tracts along the East coast and off the coasts of Alaska and California, Reuters reported.  

According to the Interior Department's estimates, the Outer Continental Shelf holds untapped resources consisting of 86 billion barrels of oil and 420 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.

In addition to offshore drilling, Vickery reported to Reuters that the department's plan to develop oil shale fields in the western United States would also continue.

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