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Existing OCS Plan at Top of Salazar To-Do List

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar last week was mum on when the department plans to issue its revised five-year (2010-2015) leasing plan for the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). He said Interior's first priority is cleaning up the problems with the existing leasing plan for 2007-2012.

"We will have more to say on the OCS in the next couple of weeks. Not the [revised leasing] plan itself, but I think we will be able to map out a schedule on how we are moving forward first with...the 2007-2012 [plan] because that's the plan which the court essentially threw out and required us to go back and do environmental sensitivity analysis.

"And under the law, that will require us to take a look at the entire OCS. So...our first job is to stand up a viable 2007-2012 plan," he told reporters following an EnergyDaily forum on transmission siting in Washington, DC, last Wednesday. At the same time Salazar said the Interior Department is trying to "synthesize" the nearly 500,000 comments that it has received on the draft 2010-2015 leasing plan.

He dismissed reports that Interior plans to wait for the existing five-year program to expire in 2012 before issuing a new OCS plan. "No, we will issue a [new] five-year plan. It's the responsibility of the Department of Interior to do that. It is more complex than I think people understand because the first thing that we have to do is clean up the problems with the current five-year plan...so we can put out a 'corrected'" version based on the sensitivity analysis, Salazar said.

"That's chapter one. And chapter two for us will be to take a look at the new five-year plan," he noted.

In April the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit vacated and remanded the existing 2007-2012 OCS leasing plan, potentially throwing into doubt future lease sales and the results of past sales (see NGI, April 20). The decision cited Interior's failure to "properly consider" the environmental sensitivity and marine productivity of the different areas of the OCS that are included in the leasing plan, particularly offshore Alaska.

But in July the appellate court clarified that its April decision only applied to areas offshore Alaska, and that its order to vacate and remand would be delayed until Interior reassesses its environmental sensitivity rankings and the leasing schedule for Alaska (see NGI, Aug. 3).

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