Interior Department orders more lease sales, quicker approval to drill for oil and gas
Interior Department secretary Ryan Zinke announced that the government would be approving more leasing of federal lands and approving permits for oil and gas drilling at a faster pace.
The Obama administration severely restricted access to resources on federal lands and placed a blizzard of paperwork in the way of oil and gas companies who wished to drill.
On a conference call with reporters, Mr. Zinke said the Interior Department must streamline its processes in order both to help produce more domestic energy and to let the government pull in more royalty revenue.
"It's better to produce energy here under reasonable regulations than to watch it be produced overseas with no regulation," he said. "We're going to do it right. That means we're going to hold industry accountable. We're looking at how to make rules and regulations, strengthening those rules and regulations by simplifying, providing stability and streamlining the process upfront so a return on investment decisions can be made quickly."
The move is part of the administration's broader effort to promote more fossil fuel production. Energy exploration on government land fell dramatically during the Obama years, even as overall oil-and-gas production increased as a result of more drilling on private land.
Environmentalists have condemned Mr. Zinke's push to open up public land for energy development, saying the administration has proved it is beholden to the oil industry.
But the secretary argued he's merely following the law.
Federal law requires the Bureau of Land Management, a division of Interior, to hold quarterly lease sales. Those sales allow energy companies to bid on the rights to explore oil-and-gas reserves on government property.
The Obama administration had fallen far short of that mandated time frame, Mr. Zinke said, with 11 lease sales canceled or postponed last year. Last year saw the second-lowest amount of federal acreage leased over the past two decades; the lowest year was in 2011.
After lease sales, the law calls on Interior to issue or deny permits within 30 days. That time frame ballooned to an average of 257 days under the Obama administration, Mr. Zinke said.
Such a long wait time is problematic because lease sales are rendered null and void if companies don't begin using the land within two years, meaning there was very little time between permit approval and the expiration date for companies to begin working.
"There's a lease sale and then there's a permitting process. To a degree, they have to match," the secretary said. "We should go back to what the law states."
The U.S. federal government owns about 30% of the all the land in the U.S. In some states, the government owns the vast majority of the land. The government owns 85% of the land in Nevada, 65% in Utah, and 61% in Alaska.
Locking up the incalculable riches on those lands has severely set back energy production in the U.S. since the 1970s.
The greens needn't worry. There are plenty of rules in place that strictly enforce environmental standards to prevent widespread damage to the wilderness. Of course, touching a blade of grass in some of those areas gives the greenies hysterics. But this is a win-win-win situation: the taxpayers benefit through lower energy costs, and the government takes in royalty payments. Businesses make a profit, workers get jobs, local communities are enriched...need I go on?
Anyone who continues to say there's no difference between the two parties should look at what's happening at the Interior Department as well as the EPA. It is a revolution in deregulation that will unleash economic activity that will create jobs and grow the economy.
What's not to like?