Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel yesterday announced the postponement of three offshore oil and gas lease sales and indicated that the natural resource leasing policies of his old boss, James G. Watt, are under review.
Hodel, speaking at his first news conference since becoming secretary, said the pace of a massive offshore leasing program begun under Watt and the manner in which areas are offered for leasing are under reconsideration. He said one factor in the review is a desire to "minimize conflict" with state governments and Congress.
Hodel refused to speculate about how he would differ from his predecessors, Watt and William P. Clark, although at several points he said he was in general accord with the more moderate policies and style of Clark.
Hodel served as an interior undersecretary under Watt before becoming secretary of energy.
He said the department has decided to delay two scheduled oil and gas lease sales offshore in Alaska and one in the Atlantic off the coasts of Georgia, the Carolinas and Florida. A fourth sale near Kodiak, Alaska, was canceled.
"All four are in frontier areas where there has been little or no exploration, and no discoveries," Hodel said in a prepared statement. "The changes in our current five-year schedule are being made because of low industry interest in these areas."
He said the amount of federal lands leased for coal production also is under review.