Press ReleaseMay 15, 2012
Markey, Holt to Push GOP, Oil Cos. to Use Idle WellsIssues: Gas Prices, Oil
Interior Dept. Report Highlights Oil Company Inaction; Natural Resources Dems to Raise Issue at Legislative Session Tomorrow
WASHINGTON (May 15, 2012) – An updated report issued today by the U.S. Department of Interior again highlights the fact that oil companies are leaving fallow millions upon millions of acres available to drilling, even as the oil industry and their partners in Congress push for new taxpayer-owned lands be turned over to ExxonMobil, BP and others. Tomorrow Republicans on the Natural Resources Committee will push legislation in a full committee legislative markup that would demand the Interior Department issue new lease areas according to the wishes of oil companies, and would put a “shot clock” on safety review of new drilling permits.
Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the Ranking Democratic Member of the Natural Resources Committee, and Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.), the Ranking Democratic Member of the Energy and Minerals Subcommittee, will renew their push for legislation that would compel oil companies to produce on the drilling leases they already own, instead of continuing the practice by the oil and gas industry to “squat” on their leased lands without producing as an amendment to one of the Republican drilling bills during the legislative markup. Reps. Markey and Holt have also introduced stand alone legislation, entitled the United States Exploration on Idle Tracts Act, or USE IT Act (H.R. 927), that would seek to incentivize oil companies to begin production in a timely fashion.
“If idle hands are the devil’s workshop, idle wells are the oil companies’ playthings, left languishing even as Big Oil asks for more taxpayer-owned land,” said Rep. Markey. “Perhaps what’s needed is a new TV show called ‘American Idle’, where Simon Cowell could mock the lack of action taken by oil companies to drill on land they already possess, even as the companies demand to be moved on to the next round of leasing.”
“The cynicism is breathtaking. Right now, oil and gas companies are leasing but failing to use 47 million acres of public land – an area roughly the size of New Jersey, New Hampshire, Kentucky, Vermont, and Connecticut combined,” said Rep. Holt. “Yet these same oil companies have the temerity to claim that they need more taxpayer land and more taxpayer subsidies to continue drilling.”
The USE IT legislation would impose an escalating fee on the oil and gas companies who continue to squat on these drilling leases without producing. The fees would then be sent back to the U.S. Treasury.
The Interior Department report says that more than 70 percent of the tens of millions of offshore acres currently under lease are inactive, neither producing nor currently subject to approved or pending exploration or development plans. Out of nearly 36 million acres leased offshore, only about 10 million acres are active – leaving nearly 72 percent of the offshore leased area idle, according to the report.
The Interior Department report is available here.