Secretary Salazar Details Strategy for Comprehensive Energy Plan on U.S. Outer Continental Shelf

 

DOI News Release

 

Date: Feb. 10, 2009

Contact: Frank Quimby

(202) 208-6416

 

Secretary Salazar Details Strategy for Comprehensive

Energy Plan on U.S. Outer Continental Shelf

 

Provides More Time for Public Comment; Incorporates Renewable Energy

 

WASHINGTON, D.C. 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.

 

One interest group, and one industry, no longer runs the show at the Interior Department,

Salazar said. “To those of you from the oil and gas industry, I pledge that you will have a

seat at the table in this Administration, like everyone else, and that you will play an

important role in helping us meet our nation’s energy needs, he said. “But President

Obama and I believe that we need to be honest about our energy future. A “drill only”

approach onshore or offshore – isn’t enough.”

 

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 (6 months) to comment on the proposed plan. The current

comment period opened on January 21, 2009.

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