New day for drilling: More study before lands are leased

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Interior Secretary Ken Salazar has promised to bring a "balanced approach" to permitting more drilling for oil and natural gas in America's Western states. That will be a welcome change, and not only for people concerned about protecting fragile arid lands, wildlife, water and air quality, but for energy development companies.

Under former President George W. Bush's "drill at all costs" policy, lands near national parks and in wilderness-quality areas that never should have been leased to development companies appeared on the auction block. Environmental groups and others rightly went to court to prevent drilling on those parcels. Oil and gas developers had to wait months or years to learn the outcome, and the uncertainty was not good for business.

… According to the secretary, it's a new day in the West. He will be restoring common sense to permitting energy development while protecting endangered species, watersheds and scenic recreational lands that are important to Western states' economies. We urge Salazar to also take a close look at further restricting all-terrain-vehicle use on public lands.

That new day has arrived none too soon. The damage already done by unfettered drilling and ATV use is appalling. It must stop.