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Obama admin to put gas and oil drilling on ice ... for now

President Barack Obama's Interior Secretary said today he's going to delay carrying out the Bush administration's plans to open the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf to drilling.

Before the administration makes a decision on whether and where to drill, Ken Salazar said, the agency will conduct studies, hold four regional conferences and let the public have its say.

"To establish an orderly process that allows us to make wise decisions based on sound information, we need to set aside the Bush Administration’s midnight timetable for its OCS drilling plan and create our own timeline,” he said.

He said the Bush administration -- which rolled back the ban on offshore drilling -- didn't provide the new administration with enough time for public review or for "wise decisions on behalf of taxpayers."

“The additional time we are providing will give states, stakeholders, and affected communities the opportunity to provide input on the future of our offshore areas,” he said. “The additional time will allow us to restore an orderly process to our offshore energy planning.”

He said there's also not enough information about what resources may lurk offshore.

“In the biggest area that the Bush Administration’s draft OCS plan proposes for oil and gas drilling - the Atlantic seaboard, from Maine to Florida - our data on available resources is very thin, and what little we have is 20 to 30 years old,” he said. “We shouldn’t make decisions to sell off taxpayer resources based on old information.”  

Salazar directed the United States Geological Survey, the Minerals Management Service, and other departmental scientists to assemble all the information available about the offshore resources – conventional and renewable – along with information about potential impacts. That report is due in 45 days.  

Based on that report, the Department will then determine what areas need more information and create a plan for gathering that information. 

Congress and the administration lifted the ban last year in the wake of $4 a gallon gasoline. Florida's west coast is protected by legislation championed by Florida senators Bill Nelson and Mel Martinez