How Congress’ budget plan is bad for public lands

The House majority today released a budget that “encourages further exploration of oil and natural gas both onshore and offshore in North America on both private and public lands.”

The oil and gas industry has been called out for attempting to drill for oil and gas within cemeteries, public drinking water supplies, and Superfund sites on public lands.  If that wasn’t enough reason to doubt their calls for even more energy development on public lands, here’s another three:

  1. Fortunately, oil production on America’s federal lands is already booming, and has increased by over 40%since 2009, helping to make the U.S. the number one producer of oil in the world. 
  1. Meanwhile, the oil and gas industry continued to record enormous profits in 2014, despite falling oil prices.
  1. Energy producers are hoarding millions of acres of public lands that they won’t drill on. Won’t they just hoard more if Congress gives them what they want?  

With oil company profits rising thanks to booming production on public lands, policymakers should take a much more cautious approach to giving away even more of our American resources.  Instead of blanket calls to ‘drill baby, drill,’ we need a balanced approach that ensures we stay as the world’s number one oil producer, while also protecting the public lands’ other economic values, for recreation and other industries.

More Background: 

Increasing oil production:

According to FY2014 production statistics released by the Office of Natural Resources Revenue last week, onshore oil production on federal lands specifically has increased by more than 60% in the last decade. Production in FY14 was also its highest point in at least the past decade. And, in just the last fiscal year, production on federal lands increased by nearly ten percent.

Thanks to the boom in oil production over the last few years, the U.S. surpassed Russia and Saudi Arabia to become the number one producer of oil globally.

Western U.S. oil producers are raking in big profits:

A review of the quarterly financial filings of the “sustaining members” of the Western Energy Alliance (WEA), an industry lobbying group, showed that the members raked in $12 billion total in net income in 2014.

In spite of this, the oil and gas industry continues to refuse to support well inspection fees for public safety, even though over 40% of high-risk wells go uninspected each year due to a lack of funding. It is equally likely that the Congressional majority will strike this item, requested again by the BLM, from the budget entirely—even though the inspection fee only proposes to raise $48 million, a fraction of the WEA members’ profits.

Energy producers have millions of acres under lease that they won’t drill:

At the end of FY2014, over 34 million acres of federal lands were under oil and gas leases, yet less than 37% of these acres were actually producing anything. More leasing doesn’t mean more lands will be drilled.

Industry, and even Congress, complains about slow permitting times—yet the time it takes BLM to process permits has decreased (whereas industry’s time has increased), and there are nearly 5,000 approved but unused permits to drill on federal lands.

Join the effort to strengthen the American West.