DOI News Release
Date: Feb. 10, 2009
Contact: Frank Quimby
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
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.