Seeking sentiment on drilling, Salazar gets an earful

April 17, 2009

There is no doubt that Californians made themselves clear on Thursday when they gathered to tell U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar that they had had enough of offshore oil drilling and were ready to turn their attention to solar, wind and other renewables.

“I think the verdict today is very clear, that drilling is inappropriate,” said Leah Zimmerman, who attended the meeting dressed in a polar bear suit.

“California is well-known for being an innovative state. Why not take advantage of that rather than trying to dampen it?” asked Craig Cadwallader of the Surfrider Foundation, a group dedicated to protecting oceans and beaches.

When Salazar took office in January he was handed a Bush-era plan to open parts of the Atlantic, Gulf Coast, Pacific, and Alaska to outer continental shelf drilling.

He decided to arrange four meetings nationwide to listen to what people had to say.

“This is a sea change from the Bush administration,” said California Lieutenant Governor John Garamendi.

Salazar did not say whether the Obama administration’s energy plan would allow for new offshore drilling, but said that it would include oil and gas.

“We may not always be able to do what is popular politically but we have to do what is right based on the policy issues that are driving this country,” he told reporters. He cited those issues as national security, environmental security and economic opportunity.

“You can see public opinion on these things change over a very short period of time depending on the price of gasoline,” he said. “We need a longer term framework.”

– Reporting by Clare Baldwin

Photocredit: Reuters/Max Whittaker (U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger in Sacramento, California April 15, 2009)

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Great to hear the people of California have got their priorities right.