By Ben Geman - 02/10/10 03:58 PM EST
Many Interior policies have their greatest effect on western states, which have vast swaths of federal lands used for oil-and-gas drilling, grazing, recreation and other activities.
But Interior, through its Minerals Management Service, also regulates drilling in federal waters – which might include waters off the coast of Moran’s home state.
Interior plans crafted under the Bush administration call for oil-and-gas leasing off Virginia’s coast – an idea Moran has criticized in the past.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is reportedly planning to delay a Virginia lease sale currently scheduled to take place next year, but Salazar's overall plans for offshore oil-and-gas development remain under wraps.
For decades, Congress used the annual Interior Department spending bills to renew longstanding bans on offshore drilling along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts.
But Congress allowed the bans to lapse in 2008 during a frenzied election-year energy debate that unfolded amid record oil prices.
Austin Durrer, Moran’s chief of staff, said it’s too soon to address the potential subcommittee chairmanship and Moran’s views on drilling policy. “There will be plenty of time for those discussions. Right now the Congressman is mourning the loss of his good friend Chairman Murtha,” he said in an email Wednesday morning.
Moran, who is in his 10th term, is popular with environmentalists, winning consistently high marks from the League of Conservation Voters.