House Passes Bill to Expedite Energy Production on Federal Lands

Published January 16, 2014

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill that would remove obstacles to the permitting process for oil and natural gas production on federal lands. The Senate has yet to address the bill, and President Obama threatens to veto it if it passes the Senate.

Cutting Red Tape
The Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act of 2013 would open more federal land for energy production and require federal land management officials to process permits in a timely manner. The legislation would also make it more difficult for courts to overturn federal land managers’ approval of energy production permits. The House passed the bill by a vote of 228-192.

“The Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act is an essential part of the House Republicans’ all-of-the-above energy plan and would remove government hurdles and red tape that block and delay development of our onshore oil, natural gas, and renewable resources,” said Rep. Doug Lamborn, author of the bill, in a press statement.

“In recent years we have seen a boom in energy jobs and economic growth on state and private lands. I believe the only reason we haven’t seen that same dynamic growth on federal lands is because of excess regulations,” said Lamborn. “My bill would reduce the federal red tape and frivolous lawsuits that act as stumbling blocks to job creation and energy development. My bill would help American families with jobs and affordable prices at the pump.”

Supporters say the bill will ensure the drilling boom occurring on state and private lands will extend to millions of federally owned acres in the West. President Obama has promised to veto the bills, saying they are unnecessary and run counter to environmental protections applying to oil and gas drilling.

Obama Administration Opposes
Myron Ebell, director of energy and environment studies at the Competitive Enterprise Institute, said President Obama’s attempts to impede oil and gas production on federal lands are a key component of his anti-fossil-fuel agenda. Ebell said he is not surprised Obama has threatened to veto the energy bills.
The Obama administration’s barriers to oil and natural gas production on federal lands “are not working as well as intended to raise energy prices and impoverish Americans because of the huge oil and gas boom caused by the combination of horizontal drilling, hydraulic fracturing, and smart drilling technology that is occurring on private land,” said Ebell.

“It’s no coincidence that shutting down production on federal lands happens to be in the solidly Republican rural West,” Ebell added. 

Taking Undue Credit
Merrill Matthews, a resident scholar with the Institute for Policy Innovation (IPI), said Obama claims credit for increasing oil and natural gas production while working to thwart it.

“The president boasts of increasing energy production, even as he does what he can to impede its production on federal lands and offshore,” Matthews explained. 

“His energy ‘successes’ [amount to] putting a happy face on a dysfunctional and damaging effort,” said Mathews.

Seton Motley, president of the public policy organization Less Government, agrees Obama is very good at taking credit for things he doesn’t do, or even opposes.
“He has fought fracking and the increasingly important Keystone pipeline every step of the way, yet he’s taking credit for the energy boom that has occurred in this country while he’s been in office. Of course the dirty little secret has been that the boom has occurred on private, not public lands,” said Motley.

Lagging Production on Federal Lands
“These bills are a good move, and whether President Obama gets behind them or not, I predict the energy boom will continue on private lands—and grow exponentially on public lands if these bills become law,” said Motley. 
H. Sterling Burnett, a senior fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, noted states burdened by large federal land ownership want to benefit from the same energy boom as places such as North Dakota and Texas.
“Fracking and natural gas exploration jobs are high-paying jobs. Even if the states don’t receive direct energy revenues, they will benefit from job creation and will receive tax revenue coming from related sources and ancillary businesses: Income taxes, sales taxes, trucking, housing, cafes, apartment complexes, etc.,” said Burnett.
“The only reason I can see President Obama and the Democrats opposing these bills is because they must appease the radical environmentalists who are opposed to any new economic growth,” said Burnett.

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.