Interior Secretary Cecil D. Andrus took issue yesterday with news stories suggesting he has postponed offshore oil leases near Alaska, California and the southern Atlantic Coast.
"There's no question but that we're accelerating proposed lease sales over what was being accomplished in the past," Andrus told a reporters' breadfast here.
The Ford administration leasing schedule issued in January was "a piece of paper someone must have scribbled out at the breakfast table," he said. "It was a list of arbitrary dates that no one was prepared to meet."
Leasing is a sensitive issue at the Interior Department, which is under pressure from environmentalists to delay offshore oil exploration and from energy comapanies to accelerate it.
While offshore oil drilling has occurred in the Gulf Coast for 30 years, the leasing of federally-owned tracts in the rougher waters of the Altantic and Northern Pacific has stirred fears of oil spills.
Andrus announced a new 18-month leasing schedule Tuesday. A Gulf of Mexico tract, originally proposed for leasing last month, is now scheduled for June. A sale in Alaska's Cook inlet, originally set for February, will take place in October.
Other lease sales scheduled include several northern Atlantic tracts in Norvember, Southern Atlantic tracts in January 1978 and mid-Atlantic tracts in December 1978.
"We've scheduled almost one every two months," Andrus said yesterday. "We're done more in four months in office than they (the previous administration) did before."
In response to other questions, Andrus said he is "surprised" at congressional opposition to President Carter's proposed gasoline tax and other parts of the energy package. "The American people are ahead of Congress in realizing something has to be done now," he said. "Congress is not as willing to accept a solution. It is a lot easier to cast a spear than hold a shield.