U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said his department will no longer be the “handmaiden” of the oil and gas industry and will conduct tougher environmental reviews of proposals to drill on public lands. Criticizing the Bush and administration for turning federal lands into a “candy store” for the petroleum industry, Salazar told reporters, “The difference is in the prior administration the oil and gas industry essentially were the kings of the world.” He said lax leasing policies “ran afoul of communities, carved up the landscape, and fueled costly conflicts that created uncertainty for investors and industry.”
Salazar said he was ordering federal land managers to get out from behind their desks and to visit proposed leasing sites to evaluate the environmental and social impacts of drilling. The stricter review process would not reduce the amount of oil and gas extracted from federal lands, Salazar said, but would ensure that drilling was done in a more responsible manner.