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Delay, Baby, Delay? Why Is Obama Ignoring the Will of the People On Offshore Drilling?

Another day, another delay.

The Department of Interior is on a bureaucratic quest to ignore the public and stop any development of American energy. The latest example is Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s announcement this week that the next offshore drilling program will not begin until 2012.
The decision, made without voter approval and against the wishes of a clear majority of Americans, upends the existing lease plan that was set to begin this year, a plan that was crafted directly in response to public outcry in 2008 over record high gas prices.

Ironically, it was that very energy crisis that forced then-candidate Barack Obama’s hand in August 2008 when, as he campaigned tirelessly for the presidency, he declared support for offshore drilling. The left may have protested, but the decision was the right one.

What a difference a year and a half makes.

Of course, broken promises are a recurring trend for President Obama. We remember his promise not to hire lobbyists and his promise to conduct open and transparent health care negotiations. The administration even made promises about openness and accountability in accepting and assessing public comments on offshore drilling.

Still more broken promises. Through a Freedom of Information Act request, American Solutions discovered that the Department of Interior is deliberately hiding something from the American people that we already know -- the public supports offshore drilling by a 2-1 margin.

If the president tells the American people in his State of the Union address that he is ready to make “tough decisions” on offshore drilling, then why is his administration delaying responsible American energy development while lamenting publicly that the United States is too dependent on foreign oil? Foot-dragging only makes Americans more reliant on dictators like Hugo Chavez and Saudi kings for its energy.

Despite the rhetoric of support, this administration opposes offshore drilling. Consider the following:

• Within a month of taking office, Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar delayed the offshore leasing process by extending the public comment period for an additional six months.
• Just days before he delayed the leasing process, Salazar also voided several existing onshore drilling leases in Utah delaying the development of American energy.
• Last September Salazar announced that he could delay offshore drilling until 2012, or longer, depending on Interior's own internal analysis, which is at his discretion.
• Days after the end of the public comment period, Interior promised that it would take “several weeks” to review and analyze the 530,000 comments received. That analysis was delayed, as there has been no public announcement from Interior.
• Earlier this year Salazar announced a new layer of bureaucratic regulations for energy companies, which will further delay any kind of responsible energy development.
• Last month Salazar announced that offshore drilling in Virginia could be delayed until at least 2012.
• Senate Democrats wrote to Salazar last month that his delays on offshore drilling were preventing economic recovery and job creation in Virginia.
• Through a FOIA request, American Solutions uncovered a deliberate delay within Interior regarding release of the breakdown of public comments on offshore leasing, which they have known since October were 2-1 in favor of drilling.
• And just recently, the Minerals Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling, told the Justice Department that it would miss its own deadline for a court-ordered environmental assessment of drilling in Alaska. Without that analysis, all further drilling will be delayed  in the Bering, Beaufort, and Chukchi seas.

Delay, delay, delay. Apparently there is no need for “tough decisions” on offshore drilling, as President Obama claimed. The administration can simply delay the decision, ignoring a clear majority of Americans who support offshore drilling in the process.

A recent study shows that existing restrictions on oil and gas drilling in America will cost the American economy $2.36 trillion over the next twenty years. Another study shows that offshore drilling can create 1.2 million jobs per year.

Simply put, every day that the Obama administration delays American energy development is another day of delaying economic recovery.

It’s time for the administration to listen to the American people and stop delaying offshore drilling.

Steve Everley is the manager of policy research at American Solutions. Learn more about the organization’s Freedom of Information Act request at www.AmericanSolutions.com.

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