Interior Sec. Salazar blasted for 'kings of the world' statement

Jan. 18, 2010
An oil state US House Democrat strongly criticized Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for his characterizations of the oil and gas industry during a teleconference last week with reporters.

An oil state US House Democrat strongly criticized Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for his characterizations of the oil and gas industry during a teleconference last week with reporters.

Asked about possible criticism of changes in new onshore leasing policies he was announcing, Salazar replied: "I think the difference was that [oil and gas producers] were essentially kings of the world in the prior administration. Whatever they wanted to happen, happened. We brought that to an end because we wanted to protect the public's resources. I expect the shrill responses from the oil and gas industry will come anyway."

Rep. Dan Boren (D-Okla.), as he released a letter to Salazar protesting the changes, said on Jan. 7: "This kind of comment is beyond the pale when thousands of Oklahomans and people from other energy-producing states are losing their jobs due to the recession. It's the type of rhetoric that only serves to add insult to injury, like he's just trying to pile on their misery."

Boren noted that independent producers drill 90% of the nation's oil and gas wells. He said, "They are the mom-and-pop outfits that run a handful of wells, the young entrepreneur seeking to expand his operation, or the regional company that employs hundreds or even thousands of people in communities across the nation. And quite frankly, they consider this brand of rancor a slap in the face and a direct attack on their pride in having helped build this country's economy."

During the teleconference, Salazar and US Bureau of Land Management Director Robert V. Abbey said the changes would provide producers more certainty because they would help reduce lease protests and lawsuits. Industry groups responded that the new policies would simply create more delays.

'Central candy store'

Salazar said, "I think the change is that in the past, the public lands were the central candy store where the oil industry walked in and took what it wanted. That's not how it should be done. We have to make sure that development is taking place in the right way at the right time in the right places. Our people will be doing a higher level of review than in the past."

In his letter, Boren told Salazar that the new policies not only violate the 2005 Energy Policy Act, for which the secretary and US President Barack Obama voted as members of the US Senate, but also were not consistent with the administration's goal of a US energy policy that provides more jobs and strengthens energy security.

"Within the House Natural Resources Committee, I am constantly reminded why decisions relating to the development of natural resources are always best made at the local level," the federal lawmaker wrote. "Developing a master leasing plan under the stewardship of yet another disassociated, Washington-based regulatory team will only create potential for litigation and protest on every oil and gas lease issued by the agency. This top-down approach will add greater bureaucracy and costly delays to an industry so critical to our nation and our future."

Boren said millions of Americans are employed by the US oil and gas industry, earning an average $45/hr, or more than $93,000/year, which he said is more than double the average estimate of jobs created by so-called "green investment."

Boren told Salazar: "Why do policymakers within the administration deny the connection between your so-called 'kings of the world' and the millions of American jobs they provide? To these companies and the people behind them, statements such as your 'kings of the world' comment are a profound affront."

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