CREDIT: AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite
The House is likely to vote on a number of GOP bills this week related to the oil and gas industry, arguably the most sweeping of which is the Federal Lands Jobs and Energy Security Act.
The bill, introduced by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO), is broad legislation designed to make it much easier for oil and gas companies to obtain permission to drill on public lands. If signed into law, the legislation would automatically approve onshore drilling permits if the U.S. Department of Interior (DOI) failed to act on them in 60 days.
If an individual does not like a proposed drilling project and wanted to oppose it, he or she would have to pay a $5,000 fee to file an official protest.
In addition, Lamborn’s proposed bill would direct the DOI to begin commercial leasing for the development of oil shale, a controversial type of production that has been largely banned by the United States since President Herbert Hoover prohibited the leasing of federal lands for oil shale. Oil shale — which should not be confused with the more common “shale oil” — is a type of rock that needs to be heated to nearly 1,000 degrees Fahrenheit to produce crude oil, which then has to be refined.
Jessica Goad, research manager of the Center for American Progress’ Public Lands Project has said the process of producing oil shale “takes a large amount of energy and money, as well as 3-5 barrels of water per barrel of oil produced, a dangerous issue in the parched West.” The Natural Resources Defense Council calls it “the dirtiest fuel on the planet.”
Nonetheless, the largest deposits of oil shale in the world are in the United States in Colorado, Utah, and Wyoming — 70 percent of which is on land owned by the federal government. Under Lamborn’s bill, the government would be required to offer 10 leases on federal lands in 2014 for oil shale research and demonstration projects. And before 2016, the government must hold at least 5 commercial lease sales of federal lands for oil shale development, each no less than 25,000 acres.
The oil produced from the oil shale could provide the United States with energy for the next 200 years, the bill says, and create an estimated 350,000 jobs. But according to the NRDC, oil shale production would emit four times more carbon pollution than producing conventional gasoline, credited to the amount of energy it takes to get hydrocarbons out of the rock.
“This bill is not simply anachronistic; it is dangerous,” a group of Democratic Representatives said in their dissent of the bill. “It would harm the environment, short-circuit critical reviews, and establish barriers to people wishing to challenge decisions on oil and gas development in their backyards.”
The entire bill, along with amendment votes and dissents, can be read here.