Friday, January 08, 2010

Interior chief adds hurdles for drilling on public lands


WASHINGTON — Energy companies seeking to drill for oil and gas on public lands in the U.S. will face stiffer environmental scrutiny and new regulatory hurdles under changes announced Wednesday by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

The new policies limit the federal government's practice of fast-tracking some drilling proposals by exempting them from detailed environmental studies.

The changes also direct the Bureau of Land Management, which oversees more than 260 million acres of federal land, to conduct on-site assessments and seek expanded public input on proposed oil and gas leases.

Salazar said the changes were designed to ensure a “thoughtful” approach to energy development on federal lands and represented a rejection of Bush-era policies that made “our public lands essentially the candy store of the oil and gas industry, who could walk in and take whatever they wanted.”

“The previous administration's anywhere-anyhow policy on oil and gas development ran afoul of communities, carved up the landscape and fueled costly conflicts that created uncertainty for investors and industry,” Salazar told reporters.