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US Interior Secretary Salazar has been traveling around the country conducting hearings on whether to permit off-shore drilling in areas that were off-limits until October 1, 2008. The Secretary visited Atlantic City, New Orleans, Alaska, and San Francisco. Public testimony was mixed as environmentalists and pro-drillers continue their decades-old argument. In Anchorage, Governor Sarah Palin warned that the trans-Alaska pipeline was in danger of shutting down unless new sources of oil were opened up. Fishermen raised the specter of another Exxon-Valdez.
At the San Francisco hearing, California officials unanimously opposed opening the coast to offshore drilling saying the country should concentrate on renewable energy sources and higher energy efficiency standards.
On Friday a federal appeals court ruled that the Bush Administration did not properly study the environment impact of drilling off the Alaska coast and ordered the Interior Department to assess the areas before moving forward. The decision stops work on drilling projects already underway in Alaska and applies to other coastal projects under consideration. The Interior Department has already announced that it will delay further leasing by five years to complete the necessary studies. The offshore drilling issue appears to be out of the energy debates for a while.