Trade groups for the oil-and-gas industry aren't getting very far with their campaign to blame President Barack Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar for slowing down drilling operations (via Reuters). Salazar "lashed out" at the industry yesterday, writes The Associated Press, accusing the trade groups of acting like an arm of the Republican Party while he announced the 38 lease sales scheduled for next year on public lands. "We believe that our oil-and-gas leasing program is robust, but it is also a program that we have brought back into balance," Salazar said during a teleconference with reporters. "But you wouldn't know it if you listened to the untruths coming out of some of the corners of the oil-and-gas industry." During the past year, the Interior has held 32 onshore lease sales, offering more than 2.7 million acres in the West and generating more than $126 million in revenue for American taxpayers, Salazar says (via The New York Times). The Obama administration will hold six more lease sales this year, including two offshore, but has faced criticism from the American Petroleum Institute and the Independent Petroleum Association of Mountain States, both of which have stepped up criticism recently. API sent a letter to Salazar this month pressing him to act faster on allowing domestic exploration projects, saying the department's "extreme caution" often leads to delays. But Salazar counters that the department has leased a significant number of properties and points to "huge undeveloped oil-and-gas acreages" that are under lease but not producing oil and gas.
Salazar recently called for a formal investigation into environmental rule changes---such as allowing bargain rates for royalties on large swaths of land leased for oil-shale development without any opportunity for review---made in the waning days of the Bush administration, which appear to favor oil companies. Meanwhile, Salazar is also being hit with public criticism from wild-horse activists, who flew a banner over Denver last Friday that read "Salazar the slaughter czar," reports The Denver Post.