API reaction to oil, gas leases mixed

April 4, 2012 at 7:20 AM
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WASHINGTON, April 4 (UPI) -- The U.S. Interior Department's decision to accelerate drilling permits for oil and gas leases on federal lands is short of what's needed, a trade group said.

The Interior Department announced plans that could cut the review time for oil and natural gas drilling on public lands from close to a year to roughly two months. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, during a visit to North Dakota, said it was a step needed to wean the United States off of foreign oil.

"By upgrading and improving our oil and gas drilling permit processing systems and technologies we believe we can improve efficiencies while ensuring thorough reviews for safety and compliance," he said in a statement.

Critics of U.S. President Barack Obama say his administration isn't doing enough to exploit domestic oil and natural gas reserves. Obama notes production is at historic highs, though Republican leaders say that's because of policies enacted by the previous administration.

"We support any system that will ensure efficiency and a clear, consistent application process," said Erik Milito, upstream director at American Petroleum Institute, in a statement.

"Most important, the administration needs to significantly reduce the unnecessary multiyear time frame for environmental reviews and open areas that remain off limits for responsible energy development."

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