Interior Secretary Pushing for Quicker Oil Lease Development

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar pushed Tuesday for new laws that would encourage energy companies to develop oil leases more quickly, and yet at the same time put in place more safety and environmental protections in the drilling process.

The Secretary called on the Senate Energy Committee to shorten the amount of time companies have to start drilling on public lands, which is now a decade.  He also wants to charge fees on companies sitting on leases and not producing.  Salazar says 41 million acres are leased for oil and gas, but only 12 million acres are currently in development.

Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski, the top Republican on the Energy Committee, asked the Secretary if companies should get more time in Alaska, where some, like Shell, have been waiting years for permits to come through.

Salazar came out against a bill that passed the U.S. House last week which says if the Obama Administration doesn’t decide whether to approve an offshore drilling application in 30 days, it’s automatically green-lighted.  Salazar says that’s not enough time, and he wants 90 days, with the option to expand to twice that if there are lingering questions.

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