"Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s decision to freeze oil-and-gas development on 60 drilling sites in Utah is one more sign that the Obama administration will take a more sensible approach to energy exploration on public lands than its predecessor’s drill-now, drill-everywhere policies. Mr. Salazar faces even tougher calls ahead.
The Utah decision, announced last week, involves parcels leased in the waning days of the Bush administration without proper environmental review or full consultation with the National Park Service. The service was particularly disturbed by the prospect of drilling on fragile lands near two national parks and a national monument. Mr. Salazar condemned the Bush administration’s “headlong rush” to lease the sites.
Days before heading out the door, the Bush administration also proposed a five-year offshore oil-and-gas leasing plan that would expand drilling in America’s Arctic waters by nearly 80 percent, including millions of acres in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas. Mr. Salazar has been reviewing this plan as well — and rightly so.
Drilling in the unforgiving Arctic environment is risky business. Oil spills would be hard to contain, and the ecological damage to some of the world’s richest fisheries could be staggering.
The idea of opening Alaskan waters to drilling has powerful support in the oil-and-gas industry and among most Alaskan politicians, including Gov. Sean Parnell, Sarah Palin’s successor who made a special trip to Washington last week to lobby Mr. Salazar."
Get the Story:
Editorial: A Clearer Look at Drilling
(The New York Times 10/14)