[JURIST] US Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar [official profile] announced plans Tuesday to reverse offshore drilling policies [press release] established by former US President George W. Bush [JURIST news archive] at the end of his presidency. The move comes as part of a larger effort by the administration of President Barack Obama [official profile] to create a comprehensive energy plan. The new plan involves extending the public comment period on a proposed 5-year plan for oil and gas development on the US Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) by 180 days, assembling a detailed report from Department of the Interior (DOI) [official website] agencies on conventional and renewable offshore energy resources, holding four regional conferences to review these findings, and expediting renewable energy rulemaking for the OCS. In remarks [text] delivered Tuesday in conjunction with the announcement, Salazar said:
We need a new, comprehensive energy plan that takes us to the new energy frontier and secures our energy independence. We must embrace President Obama's vision of energy independence for the sake of our national, economic, and environmental security.
Today, I am announcing a new way forward for our offshore energy resources. It will restore order to a broken process, so that we can make decisions about the OCS based on sound information.
In October, the US House of Representatives passed legislation [JURIST report] to lift an offshore drilling [JURIST news archive] ban. That same month, the US Senate approved [JURIST report] the expiration of a moratorium on offshore drilling that denied the DOI congressional funds to pursue drilling exploration on the Atlantic and Pacific coastlines. In July, Bush lifted an executive ban on offshore oil drilling [JURIST report] put in place during his father's presidential administration. In June, Bush called on Congress to relax restrictions on oil exploration [JURIST report], saying that it should also allow drilling to begin in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge [official website] in Alaska. Bush argued that resources currently off-limits to energy companies could offset rising fuel prices. Environmental organizations have criticized efforts to expand oil drilling [WWF report] in the Arctic, calling for increased research into energy conservation and renewable resources instead. Critics have also said that offshore development will require several years and a massive infrastructure that could impact local wildlife.