Natural Resources GOPs Aren't Done Fighting Obama's Energy Policies

During a recent hearing before the House Subcommittee on Energy Policy, Health Care and Entitlements, Rep. James Lankford (R-Okla.) displayed a map showing drilling locations directly outside of federal lands in North Dakota. He asserted that energy exploration firms are sometimes drilling on private property right up to the edge of federal land but not entering because the regulatory burden is too great to make the venture worthwhile.

According to the Institute for Energy Research, opening all federal lands to energy exploration would increase the nation’s gross national product by $127 billion annually over a seven-year period and create an estimated 522,000 jobs. That would result, Lankford said, in “American energy independence and broad economic renaissance.”

But Tommy P. Beaudreau, acting assistant secretary of Land and Minerals Management in the Department of the Interior, maintained that the U.S. is becoming less dependent on foreign sources to meet its energy needs.

“The Department of the Interior is engaged in a broad effort to secure the nation’s energy future by producing more oil and natural gas at home, developing and using clean renewable energy sources and improving energy efficiency,” Beaudreau said. “Since the president took office, America’s dependence on foreign oil has decreased every year and domestic oil and natural gas production has risen every year. In 2012, American oil production reached the highest level in two decades and natural gas production reached an all-time high.”

Beaudreau said the amount of time it takes Bureau of Land Management field offices to process and approve complete drilling applications dropped by 40 percent from 2006 to 2012, going from 127 to 77 days. The number of inspections completed by all BLM offices rose 73 over the same period, from 19,974 to 34,571.

Still, Beaudreau acknowledged, “There are opportunities for greater efficiencies.”

“The BLM has also completed a new comprehensive plan -- the first ever -- for the 23-million acre National Petroleum Reserve–Alaska, or NPR-A,” Beaudreau said. “The plan provides access to 72 percent of that area’s estimated oil potential and prevents conflicting land uses in an important east-west corridor that could be needed for pipeline infrastructure to eventually carry Chukchi Sea oil or gas production to the Trans-Alaska pipeline.”

Beaudreau defended Obama administration policies, maintaining that the Department of the Interior is “working to secure our energy future by ensuring that our domestic energy resources are safely and responsibly developed, and that the potential for clean energy development on our public lands and waters is realized. The Department, through its policies, priorities, and project work, has taken a balanced approach and it is an approach that works.”

Securing America’s Future Energy (SAFE), a nonpartisan organization formed to reduce America’s dependence on oil and advocate for comprehensive energy reform, noted in a report that while oil and gas production has increased under Obama, “significant oil and natural gas resources on federal lands, both onshore and offshore, remain unavailable for development due to statutory restrictions and bureaucratic inertia.”

Despite the overall national increase in production, the Energy Information Administration reported that oil production on federal land fell by 14 percent from 2010-2011.

"America has vast untapped energy resources but the Obama Administration has repeatedly blocked and delayed the development of energy on federal lands,” Hastings said.