The Wall Street Journal sees the Obama administration’s drilling announcement for what it is: a head fake. Even as the president speaks to the center of the energy debate, his administration is dawdling on the left:
Congress’s ban on offshore drilling expired in September 2008, and a Bush Administration plan for leasing the energy-rich Outer Continental Shelf was due to begin this year. Yet within a month of taking office, Interior Secretary Ken Salazar halted leasing by extending the public comment period by six months. When that period ended last September, Interior said it would take “several weeks” to analyze the results. It has yet to release a summary.
Newt Gingrich’s American Solutions group used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain Interior emails suggesting that the public comments ran 2-to-1 in favor of drilling. Instead of acknowledging this, Mr. Salazar last week informed Congress he was scrapping the Bush plan and that leasing will not begin for at least another two years.
The Administration failed to meet a deadline last month for submitting a court-ordered analysis of the environmental impact of new leases off the Alaskan coast. And in January, Mr. Salazar rebuffed Virginia’s request — endorsed by its governor and legislature — to allow drilling offshore. Sensing a pattern?
Onshore, meanwhile, Interior canceled oil and gas leases on 77 parcels of federal land in Utah (a handful have since been reinstated). Mr. Salazar also yanked eight parcels from a lease sale in Wyoming. Several weeks ago a leaked Interior Department memo disclosed plans to have Mr. Obama use executive power — under the Antiquities Act — to designate 10 million acres of western land as “monuments,” putting them off-limits to energy development as well as current timber or mining work.