Hutchison, Dorgan push for Atlantic and Pacific drilling

Thirty-five senators, led by Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, and Byron Dorgan, D-N.D., are urging the Obama administration to adopt a Bush-era plan for expanded oil and gas drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
In a Sept. 18 letter to Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, the senators said opening new offshore areas to drilling would “bolster our nation’s economy, create new jobs and decrease our dependence on foreign sources of energy.”
The effort comes as the government today closes a six-month public comment period on the Bush administration’s proposed five-year plan for the outer continental shelf. That draft, which was unveiled four days before former President George W. Bush left office, would open up as many as 300 million acres off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts to oil and gas drilling.
But in February, Salazar set aside a March 23 deadline for the public to weigh in on the draft five-year plan and signaled that if the proposal survives at all, it likely will be sharply curtailed. Just last week, Salazar suggested he may wait until the expiration of the current plan governing OCS leasing in 2012 to issue a new one.
That slow schedule doesn’t match what is envisioned by the group of senators who signed on to the letter, including Republican John Cornyn of Texas and Democrat Mark Pryor of Arkansas. They said immediate action is needed–even as drilling continues under the current 2007-2012 leasing plan–to “allow for responsible leasing and development of America’s energy resources” and “help industries and businesses here at home that rely heavily on natural gas and crude oil.”
American Petroleum Institute President Jack Gerard today also took aim at Salazar’s timeline. “Despite the public’s clear desire for more domestic energy development . . . this administration repeatedly has slow-pedaled this plan,” Gerard said. “It’s time to end the delays.”
Jennifer A. Dlouhy, Washington Bureau