The Bureau of Land Management wants Congress to allow it to charge new fees for inspections of natural gas and oil wells on public lands. According to BLM Director Neil Kornze, “We have a system that’s very stretched” and could use the money. But if BLM is “very stretched” why are they adding to their workload by cooking up new regulations on hydraulic fracturing when states already do it? This is just one more example of BLM and the Obama administration working to increase the red tape and costs of producing energy on federal lands, and another example of their war on affordable energy.
Over the last five years, oil and natural gas production in the U.S. has boomed—but only on private and state lands. Oil production is up 61 percent on private and state lands, but down 6 percent on federal lands. Natural gas production is up 33 percent on private lands, but down 28 percent on federal lands. Taxpayer-owned federal lands contain vast energy resources, but the Obama administration continues to make it harder and harder to produce energy on federal lands. All the Administration’s spin comes up hollow. They are either opposed to more energy, or dangerously incompetent.
A few years ago we made a list of the administration’s action designed to increase the cost and reduce the reliably of energy. These actions, coupled with mile after mile of regulatory red tape mean that it is getting harder and harder to produce energy on public lands.
The BLM, along with just about every federal agency, is working to increase this red tape. For example, BLM wants to charge new fees to do inspections of oil and natural gas operations on federal lands. They are also working on a duplicative and unnecessary proposal to regulate hydraulic fracturing on federal lands, even though states already do it and it works.
The individual states already regulate hydraulic fracturing, including on federal lands within their boundaries. The states understand how to regulate natural gas and oil production in a way that allows production without harming the environment. As a result, there is not a single case of groundwater contamination from hydraulic fracturing, despite the fact that well more than a million wells have been hydraulically fractured.
Even former Secretary of Interior, Ken Salazar admits that hydraulic fracturing is safe. Earlier this year he said, “From my opinion and from what I’ve seen … I believe hydraulic fracking is, in fact, safe.” He went on to say, “We know that, from everything we’ve seen, there’s not a single case where hydraulic fracking has created an environmental problem for anyone.”
So if the states have done such as good job of regulating hydraulic fracturing, including hydraulic fracturing that occurs on federal lands without their states, why is BLM working on duplicative hydraulic fracturing regulations, especially when BLM does not claim that the states are failing to protect the environment?
This duplicative regulation calls into question BLM’s priorities when BLM Director Kornze’s says that the BLM is “very stretched” and needs to charge energy producers more for work on federal lands. If BLM is so stretched, why not concentrate on the things that matter, such as reducing the amount of time it take for BLM to process a permit to drill?
The BLM and the Obama administration as a whole are not working to increase energy production on federal lands. Instead, they are working to increase the burdens of producing energy on federal lands and limit production. The BLM has no justification for their call for additional fees for inspections on oil and gas operations. They have not earned the right to saddle America’s producers with more burdens so they can grow their BLM empire and consolidate more power in the hands of their political masters in Washington, D.C. The BLM’s latest hollow justification for more money and more power is yet another reason the U.S. public believes its government has grown out of touch with their daily lives even as it grows and grows to seize more power.
The Institute for Energy Research (IER) is a not-for-profit organization that conducts intensive research and analysis on the functions, operations, and government regulation of global energy markets. IER maintains that freely-functioning energy markets provide the most efficient and effective solutions to today’s global energy and environmental challenges and, as such, are critical to the well-being of individuals and society.