The Obama administration will expand environmental reviews before leasing federal lands to the oil and gas industry, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar announced Wednesday.
The environmental studies are one of several new policies announced by Salazar that drew immediate rebukes from the industry and highlighted the shift at Interior from the Bush administration, which was close to oil and gas companies.
Salazar highlighted the contrast with the last administration, and hailed the expanded environmental studies as evidence that oil companies have seen their influence on federal leasing decisions wane.
“The difference is that under the prior administration, the oil and gas industry were essentially the kings of the world. Whatever they wanted to happen essentially happened. This department was essentially a handmaiden of the oil and gas industry,” he said on a conference call with reporters.
“We have brought that to an end.”
Under the new procedures announced by Salazar, Interior staff will conduct more detailed reviews of whether development would be harmful to lands and wildlife, including more on-the-ground visits.