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Report: Feds Keep 19 Billion Barrels Of Oil Out Of Reach

The Obama administration locked up nearly 19 billion barrels of oil and 94.5 trillion cubic feet of gas as it restricts oil and natural gas drilling on federally-controlled lands.

The Obama administration has been making it harder for oil and gas companies to drill on federal lands, particularly in the western U.S., all while oil production booms on state and private lands, according to a report by the American Action Forum.

“This administration’s land management policy as pertains to oil and gas is simply obsolete,” Catrina Rorke, director of energy and environmental policy at AAF, wrote in a study. “Despite dramatic changes in domestic production technologies and trends, international trade, and domestic reserves, federal agencies manage oil and gas resources as if we were stuck in the volatile and scarce energy market of the 1970s.”

“More than half of all oil resources and 40 percent of natural gas resources are kept locked away and off the market, directly impacting economic growth and job creation in resource-rich areas,” Rorke wrote.

The federal government owns 28 percent of U.S. lands holding billions of barrels of oil and gas, but has been making more lands off limits to drilling and offering fewer opportunities for companies to even get permission to drill.

In the last three years, oil industry interest in drilling on federal parcels has doubled, according to AAF, but during that time the Bureau of Land Management decreased the amount of drilling leases by one-fifth.

Also, the BLM takes an average of 7.5 months to process a permit to drill on federal lands, much longer than approval processes in states which can take anywhere from a few days to a few weeks. In total the government has reduced oil and gas leasing activity 20 percent, according to AAF.

Despite faltering oil and gas production on federal lands in recent years, the Obama administration has stepped up its efforts to make it harder to drill on public lands. In February, the president designated three national monuments in three states that could make it harder to drill.

That move came after Obama asked Congress to permanently designate the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge a “wilderness” to put the whole region off limits to development for good. The move was contested by Republican lawmakers, who said Obama was essentially declaring war on Alaska’s energy.

“This administration is determined to shut down oil and gas production in Alaska’s federal areas – and this offshore plan is yet another example of their short-sighted thinking,” said Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski, chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.

As of October 2014, Obama designated 260 million acres of federal lands and waters as part of 13 national monuments, more than any other president since 1906. Obama’s national monument designations are equal to the size of California and Texas combined.

While national monument designations themselves don’t stop drilling, they can make it more difficult for companies to set up operations or get approval to drill.

“In regions where the federal government is a significant landholder, decisions about resource development are routed through a land use planning process that is predisposed to withdrawing resources from development,” Rorke wrote. “There is a clear and defined need to improve land use planning processes and operations if the U.S. wishes to maintain dominance in oil and gas production.”

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