DIGEST

Government announces policy changes for oil and gas leases on federal lands

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

DRILLING

Changes aim to make oil leases greener

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday announced policy changes that he said will bring more scrutiny and a greater public voice to how oil and gas leases are awarded on public lands.

Salazar said the changes should ensure stricter environmental standards in oil and gas leasing while bringing more clarity to energy companies hoping to drill on public lands, mostly in Western states.

"We don't believe we ought to be drilling anywhere and everywhere," Salazar said at a news conference. "We believe we need a balanced approach and a thoughtful approach" that allows development of oil and gas leases on public lands while protecting national parks, endangered species and municipal watersheds.

The changes are intended to bring greater consistency and public engagement to onshore oil and gas leasing, Salazar said, with a goal of reducing legal challenges that have cost taxpayers millions of dollars and energy companies months or years of delays.

But Republicans and industry groups said the changes would continue the Obama administration's pattern of delaying development of natural gas on federal lands in the West. The changes will create extra layers of red tape that will allow government bureaucrats to trump the expertise of geologists and engineers, the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States said in a statement.

-- Associated Press

COURTHOUSES

Shooting prompts security review

Federal authorities will conduct a nationwide review of courthouse security after a gunman killed a courthouse officer and wounded a deputy marshal in Las Vegas, a senior official said Wednesday.

Michael Prout, a security official with the U.S. Marshals Service, said his agency will scrutinize safety measures at more than 400 federal facilities around the country. Prout said many federal buildings do not have the type of modern security checkpoints in place at the Las Vegas building.


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