By Jessica Goad
Yesterday, the House Natural Resources Committee passed three bills to mandate and encourage oil and gas drilling in the West. All of the bills throw open more public lands to drilling, mirroring the wishes of the oil lobby, the American Petroleum Institute (API).
Just two days ago, API released a report outlining its political wish list. It included two provisions about drilling on lands that belong to American taxpayers:
We Are Calling For: The opening of the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge — 1002 Area; portions of the Rocky Mountains; lifting of the drilling moratorium in New York, and timely review projects on federal land.
We Are Calling For: The federal government to increase lease sales and adopt pro-access processes to improve development of U.S. oil and natural gas resources on public lands.
All three of the drilling bills passed by the Natural Resources Committee yesterday seek to open more lands for oil and gas development, increase lease sales, and streamline access — just as API has asked Congress to do:
– H.R. 4381 from Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) requires planning for an “all of the above” energy plan on public lands and requires the relevant secretaries to meet a “domestic strategic production objective.”
– H.R. 4382 from Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) mandates leasing and requires that at least 25 percent of the acres nominated by the oil and gas industry be leased, in essence turning land management decisions over to the industry.
– H.R. 4383 from Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO) would force the Interior Department to issue oil and gas leases within a certain arbitrary time frame, as well as punish citizens for exercising their legal right to protest oil and gas leases.
Not surprisingly, these three members have taken significant campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry. In the 2012 cycle, oil and gas has given Tipton $44,250; Coffman: $77,500; and Lamborn: $31,250.
More light was recently shed on the cozy relationship between members of Congress and the oil and gas industry. A few days ago, emails from a staffer to Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) were released referring to the oil and gas industry as “our partners.”
While the three bills passed yesterday seek to increase access to public lands for energy development, an Interior Department report released on Tuesday shows that the industry already has incredible access. Not only did the government hold “… three of the top five largest [lease] sales in the agency’s history” last year, but 56 percent of the public lands leased to the oil and gas industry in the lower 48 states were not producing any fossil fuels or being explored.
Jessica Goad is the Manager of Research and Outreach for the Public Lands Project at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.