ken salazar bromwich

US Interior Secretary To Step Down, Offshore Stakeholders Appear Happily Anxious

Rob Almeida
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January 16, 2013

June 23, 2010 – Newly appointed Bureau of Ocean Energy Director Michael Bromwich and Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar testify before the Senate Interior Appropriations Subcommittee regarding reforms to strengthen offshore oil and gas oversight and enforcement. Tami Heilemann-DOI

WASHINGTON, DC – After 4 challenging years managing the natural resources of the United States, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has announced his plans to leave the Department by the end of March.

“I have had the privilege of reforming the Department of the Interior to help lead the United States in securing a new energy frontier, ushering in a conservation agenda for the 21st century, and honoring our word to the nation’s first Americans,” said Salazar. “I thank the more than 70,000 employees at the Department for their dedication to our mission as custodians of America’s natural and cultural resources. I look forward to helping my successor in a seamless transition in the months ahead.”

During Secretary Salazar’s tenure, he led the Interior Department’s response to the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and split the former Minerals Management Service (MMS) into three independent agencies, the BOEM, the BSEE, and the ONRR.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) was formed to manage the development of the nation’s offshore resources, the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement (BSEE) was formed to enforce safety and environmental regulations, and the revenue collection arm became the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

“We have undertaken the most aggressive oil and gas safety and reform agenda in U.S. history, raising the bar on offshore drilling safety, practices and technology and ensuring that energy development is done in the right way and in the right places,” said Salazar. “Today, drilling activity in the Gulf is surpassing levels seen before the spill, and our nation is on a promising path to energy independence.”

Salazar Hurt Drilling Industry Unfairly Says Industry Exec

From the perspective of the offshore drilling industry, Hercules Offshore’s Executive Vice President Jim Noe, provided an alternative view today on Salazar’s administration.

“We understand that Secretary Salazar intends to leave his post as Interior Secretary some time this quarter to return to his home in Colorado.  We wish him well and join the many voices thanking him for his public service.

From the perspective of industry in the Gulf of Mexico, we remember the tough days that followed the Deepwater Horizon incident during which Secretary Salazar presided over a moratorium on permits that created significant uncertainty for energy production and energy security.  While the Interior Department seemed to pursue long-shot energy alternatives, it created official and de facto moratoriums that hurt the industry, thousands of workers, and the small businesses and communities that depend upon them.  The legacy of the Interior five-year plan has charted a course for the fewest lease sales in a generation.

Since that time, producers, drillers and operators have eagerly awaited a full normalizing of the permitting process.  While we are making great strides in that direction, more needs to be done.

President Obama will face a tough choice in replacing Secretary Salazar, a well liked and respected public servant.  We hope that future leadership at the Interior Department will be able to take a more balanced approach to natural resource development.  We have been encouraged by the sound and even-handed leadership that Admiral Watson has brought to BSEE and we hope that his new boss will share his desire to reach out to industry in a sincere and responsible effort to pursue energy independence.

Much more offshore reform is needed

Lori LeBlanc, Executive Director of the Gulf Economic Survival Team, commented on today’s announcement:

The Secretary was in office during the Macondo blowout in the Gulf of Mexico and presided over the dark days of the moratorium on Gulf operations that needlessly brought Gulf workers and their communities to their knees.  He also oversaw a prolonged period of reform of the offshore regulatory regime, an effort that remains ongoing even today.  The Secretary also led President Obama’s “All of the Above” energy strategy, meant to harness the strengths of traditional fuel sources while developing next generation sources.   Indeed, between onshore energy discoveries and the potential of offshore output, the U.S. is closer than ever before to realizing energy independence.

To take us further down that road, the next Secretary must focus on realizing the potential of the Gulf, which accounts for nearly 30 percent of domestic oil production yet often suffers from regulatory uncertainty.  The Gulf’s prospects ultimately depend on the Interior Department’s ability to finish the offshore reform process and implement clear regulations that encourage safe, responsible and efficient energy production.  To do anything less will make it that much harder to realize America’s promising energy future.

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