GOP chal­lenges ad­min­is­tra­tion on oil pro­duc­tion

Says a cli­mate of un­cer­tainty hangs on ac­cess to public land

The Washington Times Daily - - Politics - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

Ev­ery time Pres­i­dent Obama takes credit for ris­ing U.S. oil and gas pro­duc­tion dur­ing his ad­min­is­tra­tion, Repub­li­cans start rolling their eyes and grind­ing their teeth.

As the White House con­fronts crit­i­cism on ris­ing gas prices by tout­ing its en­ergy record, Repub­li­cans in­sist the oil and gas boom has come in spite of ad­min­is­tra­tion ef­forts to cor­don off ac­cess to re­source-rich fed­eral lands and limit off­shore de­vel­op­ment.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Re­pub­li­can, chal­lenged the ad­min­is­tra­tion’s record at a sub­com­mit­tee hear­ing Wed­nes­day, cit­ing In­te­rior Depart­ment fig­ures show­ing that oil pro­duc­tion is down 14 per­cent on fed­eral lands and 17 per­cent from fed­eral wa­ters.

The data bol­ster what Repub­li­cans have said re­peat­edly, that en­ergy com­pa­nies are re­ly­ing on state and pri­vate lands to fuel the boom. The fig­ures also ap­pear to re­fute In­te­rior Sec­re­tary Ken­neth L. Salazar’s state­ment at a White House brief­ing Tues­day on the re­cent in­crease in gas prices.

“The fact of the mat­ter is that we are pro­duc­ing more from public lands, both oil and gas, both on­shore as well as off­shore, than at any time in re­cent mem­ory,” Mr. Salazar said at the brief­ing.

At a hear­ing of the Ap­pro­pri­a­tions Com­mit­tee sub­com­mit­tee on the In­te­rior, Mrs. Murkowski quizzed Bureau of Land Man­age­ment di­rec­tor Robert V.abbey on the dis­crep­ancy.

“I un­der­stand why the ad­min­is­tra­tion is work­ing hard to try to ex­plain what it claims is its record, but we have a prob­lem here,” she said. “The ad­min­is­tra­tion’s own data is ei­ther wrong or this in­for­ma­tion has not been ad­e­quately com­mu­ni­cated to the sec­re­tary.”

Mr. Abbey ac­knowl­edged that “oil pro­duc­tion from on­shore fed­eral min­er­als last year is down from pre­vi­ous years,” but added that fed­eral agen­cies can do lit­tle to in­flu­ence pro­duc­tion once the leases are granted to pri­vate com­pa­nies.

“I will say this, though, where in­dus­try de­cides to pro­duce or to de­velop is up to them. For ex­am­ple, we have 7,000 ap­pli­ca­tions for per­mits to drill that are not be­ing drilled,” Mr. Abbey said. “We have over 25 mil­lion acres of lands we have leased that are not be­ing de­vel­oped.”

One rea­son of­ten cited by ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials is the fall of nat­u­ral-gas prices, which has re­duced the mar­ket in­cen­tives for in­dus­try to drill on its public leases. But Repub­li­cans say the ad­min­is­tra­tion has cre­ated a cli­mate of un­cer­tainty over ac­cess to public lands that has dis­cour­aged com­pa­nies from in­vest­ing in those leases.

They cite the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s 2009 can­cel­la­tion of the Utah en­ergy leases, the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment’s decision to over­haul its re­gional man­age­ment plans, the pro­posed cut­backs in acreage avail­able for oil-shale de­vel­op­ment, its op­po­si­tion to drilling in the Arc­tic Na­tional Wildlife Refuge, pro­posed in­creases in min­eral roy­al­ties, and the nix­ing of the Key­stone XL pipe­line.

“All the im­pe­tus is for lock­ing away public lands at a time when we need them the most,” said Sean Paige, ed­i­tor of Mon­key­Wrench­ing Amer­ica, a newly launched on­line pub­li­ca­tion spon­sored by Amer­i­cans for Pros­per­ity. “There’s a cor­re­la­tion be­tween ac­cess to public lands and the price you pay at the pump.”

The pres­i­dent has been pro­mot­ing his en­ergy stances as sur­veys show ris­ing prices at the gas pump have eroded his ap­proval rat­ing. Last week, he re­it­er­ated his sup­port for end­ing tax cred­its on en­ergy de­vel­op­ment and at­tacked oil-com­pany prof­its, though ad­min­is­tra­tion crit­ics have asked how end­ing a sub­sidy for any prod­uct would lower its price or en­cour­age that good’s pro­duc­tion.

“We don’t need to sub­si­dize oil com­pa­nies when they’re do­ing this well,” Mr. Obama said.

The White House re­leased its “Blue­print for a Se­cure En­ergy Fu­ture” progress re­port Mon­day, which found that en­ergy pro­duc­tion has in­creased ev­ery year since the pres­i­dent took of­fice in 2009. The use of re­new­able en­ergy such as wind and so­lar power has dou­bled since 2008, the re­port said.

“The Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion con­tin­ues to take steps to ex­pand do­mes­tic pro­duc­tion safely and re­spon­si­bly as part of an all-ofthe-above ap­proach to Amer­i­can en­ergy,” In­te­rior spokesman Adam Fetcher said. “Na­tion­wide, do­mes­tic oil and gas pro­duc­tion has in­creased each year of this ad­min­is­tra­tion, and is the high­est that it’s been in eight years.”

CREDIT

“[W]e have a prob­lem here,” Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Alaska Re­pub­li­can, says at a hear­ing about the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion’s record on en­ergy pro­duc­tion.

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