Public Meeting No. 2 – New Orleans

By ALLEN M. JOHNSON JR. Apr 9, 2009

NEW ORLEANS — U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar on Wednesday said the Obama administration is not “at war” with the oil and gas industry.

“Some have said we are at war with the oil and gas industry … I would beg to differ,” Salazar told an audience of about 100 people Wednesday morning at Tulane University.

Later, with pro-oil exploration Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La., standing politely at his side, Salazar later acknowledged energy industry uproar over a 5-year plan for $31 billion in administration-proposed taxes.

“It’s a hot issue,” Salazar said. “We will continue to look at it.”

The proposed taxes and a longstanding ban on offshore oil exploration bubbled up during Salazar’s visit to New Orleans, the second of four coastal cities on his fact-finding tour.

In New Orleans, pro-energy advocates and environmental activists from across the Gulf Coast focused on voicing support — or opposition — to lifting the federal ban on offshore drilling.

“All areas of the OCS should be open without delays for oil and natural gas development,” Sara Banaszak, an economist for the American Petroleum Institute, representing 400 oil and gas companies. “This would mean more jobs, more revenues for local, state and federal governments and greater energy security.”

Paula Vassey, a community activist in Gautier, Miss., opposed ending the offshore drilling ban.

“Our cancer rates are among the highest in the country and the oil industry is one of the contributors,” Vassey said.

Kent Satterlee of Shell Oil said: “We have the technology. We have the expertise. The OCS can be explored and developed safely and responsibly.”

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