“Leave us alone.” That’s what members of the Denver-based Western Energy Alliance, which represents over 400 independent oil and gas trade associations, told members of Congress this week as they came to Washington to seek relief from layers of bureaucratic red tape they say makes it “incredibly difficult” to extract energy resources from federal lands.
Since public lands account for more than half of all U.S. energy production in the Western states, the additional restrictions on what is already one of the nation’s more regulated industries are keeping needed resources off the market.
WEA members, who operate 90 percent of the oil and gas wells in the U.S., say drilling restrictions imposed by the federal Environmental Protection Agency, the Forest Service and the Bureau of Land Management in addition to state regulations cause many unnecessary delays.
“Bureaucratic red tape has already caused a decrease in the productive use of western lands for energy development along with a corresponding decline in revenue to federal, state, and local governments,” said Kathleen Sgamma, WEA’s director of government affairs.
Responding to President Obama’s recent assertion that oil and gas companies are not developing already leased land, she added: “It’s a paradoxical situation in which the government has created a cumbersome process that takes years to complete, environmental groups throw up legal roadblocks at every stage, and then the government and environmental lobby turn around and blame the industry for not ‘diligently developing.’”
And although the U.S. currently has a 100 years’ supply of clean-burning natural gas, “you still have to dig a hole in the ground” to get to it, points out Dan Larson, external affairs advisor of WEA member EnerPlus Resources Corp.
Indefinite delays by the Obama administration, three additional layers of federal red tape, environmental lawsuits, and new restrictions not specified at the time the leases on federal lands were sold have created “death by a thousand cuts” that prevent domestic energy companies from drilling – even onshore.
WEA says such policies have prevented $3.9 billion in investment in Western states, which would have created 16,000 new jobs.
When The Examiner asked what domestic energy producers would like Congress to do, Larson said: “Leave us alone. It always comes back to that.”