(Kathleen Sgamma, Western Wire) For years, anti-oil and natural gas groups like 350.org, the Center for Biological Diversity and the Sierra Club urged President Barack Obama to “keep it in the ground.” Well, it turns out the former president actually did a pretty good job for these groups.
The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) recently released its data for fiscal year 2016, the last full year of the Obama administration. When you compare those numbers to the data from 2008, the year before President Obama took office, the contrast is compelling. All the major indicators for the federal onshore oil and natural gas program fell during his eight years in office. To see just how sharply things contracted, consider the following data from BLM:
These numbers tell the story of eight years under Obama: Delayed and canceled lease sales, slow permitting procedures and a series of needless rulemakings that made oil and gas development on federal lands as difficult as possible. It’s no wonder natural gas production is down on federal lands 15 percent even as it has increased nationwide by 66 percent, and the growth of federal oil production at 69 percent lags far behind nonfederal production, which has skyrocketed 115 percent.
The overall increase in U.S. energy production is largely the result of development on private and state lands – places where “keep it in the ground” groups didn’t have the inside track during the Obama years. The oil and natural gas industry looks forward to working with President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on a very different vision, one that encourages American energy development and job creation on federal, state and private lands.
But the Trump administration will need support from U.S. lawmakers to fully correct the bureaucratic foot dragging that has stifled responsible development on appropriate public lands and prevented tens of thousands of jobs from being created. A good place for lawmakers to focus their efforts right now would be overturning the BLM’s redundant and highly restrictive venting and flaring rule. The U.S. House passed a disapproval motion under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) weeks ago, and it’s time for the U.S. Senate to stop delaying and vote to overturn the rule.
Perhaps these numbers showing the before and after impacts of the Obama administration’s regulatory agenda will remind lawmakers why federal lands issues matter so much to the communities of the West.
Kathleen Sgamma is the president of Western Energy Alliance. The Alliance represents the Western oil and natural gas industry and is a supporter of Western Wire.