API's Gerard: 'Respect' for Salazar, hopes 'reality has now settled in' on drilling

“As you know, the secretary and I have had different views on some issues for some time. However, while I’ve disagreed on the policy, we haven’t been disagreeable on a personal level,” Gerard told reporters at an event hosted by the U.S. Energy Association.

Interior announced Wednesday that Salazar would leave his post in March.

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Salazar, who oversaw an expansion of solar, wind and other green energy sources on federal lands, often battled the oil-and-gas industry and Republicans on fossil fuel drilling on federal lands both offshore and onshore.

Gerard said API and Interior are "listening to each other better," and said he was hopeful the recent domestic shale oil-and-gas boom would lead to more industry-friendly policy from the White House.

“I think while the trend early on was to curtail our potential ... on federal lands, I’m hopeful that reality has now settled in,” Gerard said. “We’re hopeful that there will be some adjustments in their policies.”

Industry wants more access to federal lands, saying the White House keeps too much of them off-limits. While oil and gas production has increased under Obama, most of that boost has come from private and state lands.

While Gerard declined to offer specific suggestions on Salazar’s successor, he said he prefers someone from a Western state. He said such officials would understand the regulatory issues facing the oil-and-gas industry because they have experience managing swathes of federal, state and privately controlled lands.

“There’s unique opportunities and challenges coming from the public lands, and so I think it’s important to have someone who has that as part of their DNA,” Gerard said.