House Votes to Aid Drilling in Weeklong GOP Offensive on Obama's Energy Policy

Federal leases permitted under the Obama administration have been historically low, Hastings said. The average time to get a drilling permit approved on federal land is 307 days. By contrast, drillers can obtain a permit on public lands held by North Dakota in 10 days on average.

“It is no wonder that state lands are flourishing while federal lands are experiencing a decrease in energy production,” Hastings said. “That is unacceptable, and this bill today offers real solutions to unlock the shackles that have been placed on our federal lands.”

Holt answered that analysis is “flat-out wrong.” Production on federal and Indian lands in the West has actually “skyrocketed.”

“Onshore oil production from federal and Indian lands, just what we are talking about in this legislation, has gone up every year since the president has been in office,” Holt said. “It is now 35 percent higher than it was under President Bush. Yet this legislation would not just reduce environmental protections, it would gut them, it would remove them.”

Lamborn maintained that his bill “takes significant steps toward moving our country forward on a path to energy independence by streamlining government regulations and reducing government red tape that hinders onshore energy production.” Despite claims to the contrary, he said, “President Obama has waged a war on energy development.”

“Under the administration, a simple permit, which in my home state of Colorado on average takes 27 days to approve, takes nearly a year on federal land. And only minuscule areas of land have been leased for energy development despite significant interest in many more acres. In fact, the Obama administration has had the 4 lowest years of federal acres leased for energy production going back to 1988. The Obama administration has even taken the shocking and questionable step of canceling leases that have been legally bought and paid for.”

McEnaney noted that the bill also pressures the Interior Department to open up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil and gas exploration if Alaska supplies matching funds to carry out an exploration program. That move, he said, “undermines responsible management of the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. It would toss out an existing National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska Integrated Activity Plan, which was approved after 400,000 Americans, including Alaskans, sportsmen and scientists weighed in, and instead orders the use of an alternative allowing new drilling in the Reserve’s five designated 'Special Areas,' which are valued for wildlife habitat and native subsistence.”

Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) said the provision was requested by a number of Indian tribes and Alaska native corporations to streamline federal regulations and legal procedures that hinder exploration, development, and production of energy on their lands.

“There are 56 million acres of lands held in trust by the federal government for the benefit of Indians, 56 million,” Young said. “In Alaska, there are 44 million acres, a total land mass larger than the state of California. Many of these areas are in untapped energy resources. It is estimated that up to 10 percent or more of our nation's energy is contained in Native lands.”

But outdated federal policies, Young said, “thwart the ability of tribes to use their lands for their benefit. Leases of Indian trust lands require federal review and approval, which arguably brings little or no value to the tribes involved.”