Announcing that “the time for reform has arrived,” Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar set aside the Bush administration’s “midnight timetable” for offshore drilling. “On Friday, January 16, its last business day in office,” Salazar explained in today’s press conference, “the Bush Administration proposed a new five year plan for offshore oil and gas leasing.” The Bush plan called for the completion of meetings and hearings by March 23. Salazar decried this “broken process”:
It was a headlong rush of the worst kind. It was a process rigged to force hurried decisions based on bad information. It was a process tilted toward the usual energy players while renewable energy companies and the interests of American consumers and taxpayers were overlooked.
Salazar announced he “will extend the public comment period by 180 days, get a report on offshore energy resources, hold regional conferences and expedite rulemaking for offshore renewable energy resources.”
Salazar made it clear that his definition of “energy independence” does not mean a “drill only” future. He rebuked the “oil and gas or nothing” approach of the Bush administration, who ignored the Energy Policy Act of 2005’s mandate to develop regulations for offshore renewables:
I intend to do what the Bush Administration refused to do: build a framework for offshore renewable energy development, so that we incorporate the great potential for wind, wave, and ocean current energy into our 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, who comes from a long line of Colorado ranchers, is famed for wearing a cowboy hat as often as possible. Now it’s clear why he always wears a cowboy hat — Salazar’s the new sheriff in town.