National

Jan 6, 2010 1:27 PM by Matthew Daly

Interior chief announces oil, gas leasing reforms

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is announcing changes he says will bring more scrutiny and greater public participation in the way oil and gas leases are handled on public lands.

Salazar says the changes should ensure stricter environmental standards in oil and gas leasing while bringing more certainty for energy companies that hope to drill on public lands, mostly in Western states. Salazar is a former senator from Colorado. The Democrat criticized the Bush administration for what he called a "headlong rush" to lease public lands. Early last year, Salazar suspended 60 of 77 leases in Utah approved in the waning days of that administration.

Industry groups have accused Salazar of significantly reducing oil and gas leases on federal lands. He has disputed that.

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