DENVER | Another piece of President Obama’s energy legacy: Oil and natural gas production on federal lands tanked under his tenure even as private activity increased.
From 2008 to 2016, major indicators of federal onshore and natural gas operations declined, including the number of leases, acres leased, permits approved and wells being drilled, according to the Western Energy Alliance in Denver.
The energy advocacy group used figures released Wednesday from the Bureau of Land Management for fiscal year 2016 to finalize its report.
“Who needs the Keep-It-in-the-Ground movement when you have the federal government doing the job itself,” said Alliance President Kathleen Sgamma. “Every major indicator of oil and natural gas activity on federal lands is down.”
Rep. Rob Bishop, Utah Republican and House Natural Resources Committee chairman, said Wednesday that production on federally managed lands “was all but impossible under the Obama administration,” citing bureaucratic red tape and fewer leases offered.
The FY2016 figures reflect “the lowest amount of leased acreage for the years statistically available, since 1988,” with leased acreage during the eight-year period falling by 20 million, the committee said.
“These numbers reflect steadfast efforts by the Obama administration to squelch responsible energy development,” Mr. Bishop said.
Ms. Sgamma referred to the “keep-it-in-the-ground” mantra of the environmental movement, which has pushed in recent years to block oil, natural gas and coal operations on public lands in the name of reducing greenhouse gases.
Production of natural gas on federal lands actually declined by 15 percent on federal land during the years of the Obama administration, while production on private lands increased during the same period by 66 percent.
“There’s a reason federal production lags far behind private and state lands. The redundant regulation and red tape over the past eight years have had their intended effects,” said Ms. Sgamma. “We look forward to working with Interior Secretary [Ryan] Zinke to realize President Trump’s vision of encouraging American energy development and job creation.”
The Republican-controlled Congress has taken aim at the Obama administration’s energy regulations, including the BLM’s venting-and-flaring rule, which was announced by former Interior Secretary Sally Jewell a week after the November election.
This rule to prevent waste of our nation’s natural gas supplies is good government, plain and simple,” said Ms. Jewell in a Nov. 15 statement. “We are proving that we can cut harmful methane emissions that contribute to climate change, while putting in place standards that make good economic sense for the nation.”
The House passed a disapproval motion Feb. 3 to overturn the rule, which is now before the Senate.
“This God-awful rule is aimed right at North Dakota in an effort to destroy the Bakken,” said Rep. Kevin Cramer, North Dakota Republican, in a statement. “The rule does nothing to help the environment, plus states and the EPA already have authority over flaring and venting.”
The price of natural gas fell during the Obama administration, causing an industry contraction, but “if natural gas prices alone explained the drop on federal lands, then private lands would have a similar drop,” said Ms. Sgamma.
“They obviously have not. The drop of natural gas production on public lands can be attributed primarily to the additional red tape and bureaucratic delays from the federal government,” she said