Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar has released a report requested by President Obama showing that two-thirds of all offshore oil and gas leases in the Gulf of Mexico and half of all onshore leases on federal lands are not currently being used by the energy companies that purchased the leases.
By David A. Hill
In fact, the report reveals, the companies not only aren’t producing any oil and gas on the leases, they also aren’t currently conducting any exploration. The report is part of the administration’s attempt to counteract Republican accusations that Salazar has implemented too many environmental restrictions on domestic oil and gas drilling and is costing the country jobs.
Overall, the Salazar report found that about 45 percent of all onshore leases and 57 percent of all leased acres are idle. Of the more than 38 million leased onshore acres, nearly 22 million acres are not being used. The Department of Interior is considering “policy options to provide companies with additional incentives for more rapid development of oil and gas resources.”
“We continue to support safe and responsible domestic energy production, and as this report shows, millions of acres that have already been leased to industry for oil and gas production sit idle,” Salazar said in a release.
“These are resources that belong to the American people, and they expect those supplies to be developed in a timely and responsible manner and with a fair return to taxpayers. As we continue to offer new areas onshore and offshore for leasing, as we have done over the last two years, we will also be exploring ways to provide incentives to companies to bring production online quickly and safely.”
In Colorado and Utah, states with between 1 million and 5 million federal lease acres, only 32 percent and 22 percent of those acres, respectively, are currently being used for oil and gas production. In Wyoming and New Mexico, both states with more than 5 million federal lease acres, only 33 percent and 69 percent of those acres, respectively, are being used for oil and gas production.
Denver-based Matt Garrington, deputy director of the Checks & Balances Project, said in a release that “it’s time to clear up the muddy waters around the drilling debate, and today’s report by the Obama administration does just that. The simple truth is approval rates for drilling permits are up, and industry lays idle hands on over 21 million acres of public lands.
Despite Libya’s conflict, unrest throughout the Middle East and increasing energy demands of countries like China and India, Republicans continue to fault the White House for rising energy costs. In his weekly newsletter last Sunday, Colorado Congressman Cory Gardner repeated the refrain.
“As is the case with jobs and the economy, Washington is a big part of the problem when it comes to the cost of energy,” Gardner said. “Over the last two years, the Obama administration has consistently blocked American energy production that would lower costs and create jobs.”
“It has imposed a de facto moratorium on drilling in this country, and it tried to pass a national cap-and-trade tax on energy. The result of the administration’s freeze on energy production at home is that gas is on its way to $4 a gallon and unemployment remains high.”
Gardner has joined fellow House Republicans in trying to significantly reduce the regulatory authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as well as block Salazar’s Wild Lands proposal for identifying and designating appropriate BLM lands for wilderness protection.