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Drilling Frenzy Days Are Over, Says Salazar

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View John McManus's blog posts
07 January 2010, 4:41 PM
Promises to emphasize science over 'categorical exemptions'

Interior Sec. Ken Salazar stepped up to the microphone this week and told the nation the days of drilling oil and gas everywhere on public lands are over. This is welcome news to Earthjustice attorneys who opposed many of the public lands oil and gas leases ramrodded through by the Bush/Cheney administration.

Salazar made clear that he, unlike his predecessors in the prior administration, understands some public lands, especially in the west, are special and should not be drilled.

Many of the new policies result from an Interior Department review of a 77-parcel Utah lease sale in December 2008. The review came after Earthjustice litigation stopped the sale and forced the cancellation of these leases. Salazar said the department will start requiring more detailed environmental reviews, provide increased opportunities for public input, and reduce a drilling fast track known as categorical exclusions.

Categorical exclusions allowed many oil and gas drilling plans to sail through with little or no environmental review.

In Wyoming, a single federal Bureau of Land Management office granted 1,498 categorical exclusions from 2006 to 2008 - more than any other BLM field office. The part of the state where this oil and gas development subsequently happened saw significant declines in mule deer and sage grouse numbers, as well as increases in air pollution.

From now on BLM must consider extraordinary circumstances, like impacts to species, historic or cultural resources, or human health and safety before categorically excluding oil and gas drilling plans from review.

Earthjustice attorneys have long argued in court cases that the federal government should fully consider other important natural resource values prior to making an irreversible commitment to drill for oil or gas in an area. Sec. Salazar embraced this position as well as new plans to take a site-specific approach to individual lease sales — also welcome news to conservationists.

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Drilling is not the answer. It is much more devastating than you think. I am from West Texas and worked in the oil field and saw it for myself. And scraping up oil shale or tar sands is worse. We need to conserve, both through more efficient machinery and equipment but more by just turning things off! We have gotten so spoiled and it cannot last forever. Please try to understand what sustainable means. Some of us have been advocating conservation for 20 years and it still hasn't caught on. Another area as yet "untapped" is that of waste heat. You don't really need to be an engineer to understand some of these concepts.

Thanks to Mr Salazar for recognizing the devastation caused by drilling and that it is not appropriate in all places. My community in New Mexico is also threatened by drilling and we have seen and heard about the devastation this has caused other communities in the Rockies.

Its time to get serious about real alternatives to gas and oil. This means real conservation (studies show we can reduce energy consuption by 80%!) and distributed alternative energy - NOT huge industrial facilities that cost billions to build and transfer energy to cities, but alternative energy produced right in the cities, with solar panels, small wind generators, and geothermal heating. Its cheaper, easier, and better for us, the little people. The corporations don't get to make big bucks off it, but it is more secure, easier on the environment, and makes the most sense.

You are SO right. No matter how much it costs the 'little guy'--these wacos will get their way.
Then we will hear the screaming about how much it costs to heat our homes, fuel our cars and the purchase price of everything we buy.
Why? Because someone didn't want to get the local comodities out of the ground that is under our feet.
The techniques that have been developed do not disturb the surrounding environment- I say "drill" !

This is typical. We are sitting on all this energy and dumb people don't want to drill it. Ok Salazar lets keep importing all of our energy from mideast countries that hate us.

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