Salazar closes in on offshore drilling decision

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar told reporters Friday afternoon that he’s 30-45 days away from a closely-watched decision about the Obama administration’s policy on offshore oil-and-gas drilling.

Salazar inherited a Bush-era draft plan that would allow greatly expanded drilling in federal waters – including development of wide Atlantic and Pacific coast areas that had been off-limits until decades-old bans expired in October of 2008.

Don’t expect the Obama administration to adopt the Bush-era plan whole cloth.

But the degree of expanded leasing that Interior might propose remains uncertain. President Obama signaled in his State of the Union speech that he’s open to wider leasing, calling for “tough decisions about opening new offshore areas for oil and gas development.”

The White House hopes to translate its support for new drilling and nuclear power into a bipartisan deal on a broader energy and climate change package.

Salazar was asked about oil-and-gas drilling Friday at an appearance with Atlantic Coast governors to tout their joint efforts to develop coastal wind projects. He declined to provide any details about the upcoming drilling announcement, saying only “we are working on it very hard.”