By Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Ted Cruz (R-Texas), and Reps. Diane Black (R-Tenn.) and Rob Bishop (R-Utah)
The United States stands at the threshold of the long elusive goal of energy independence and renewed economic strength. America has vast oil and gas reserves waiting to be unleashed, but access to those resources-and the jobs they will bring-are being stonewalled by the Obama Administration.
There are thousands of acres of federally controlled land that can be safely and environmentally responsibly tapped to access millions of barrels of oil and billions of cubic feet of natural gas. It is time to get the politically driven, slow moving, regulation dominated, federal government out of the way of permitting oil and gas wells on federal land and let the states manage the process. The great American energy renaissance taking hold across the nation has been almost exclusively through the permitting process operated by the states. Domestic oil production has increased over 40 percent since 2008 to over 7.3 million barrels per day. This is the highest level since the mid-1990s, which is something we should all celebrate. This increase, however, has exclusively occurred on state and private lands, where the devastation of President Obama’s War on Fossil Fuels has been weakest.
Elsewhere, on the roughly 600 million acres of federal land and offshore on the outer continental shelf, producers must get permission before doing anything energy related. Here, the Obama Administration has added layers of regulations to the development process, delayed and even revoked oil and gas leases, and unilaterally locked up hundreds of thousands of acres of other lands, making them off-limits to job creation. Today, 83 percent of all federal land are off limits to development and it takes over 300 days just to get a drilling permit, a process that takes only 10 hours in Oklahoma.
This is a tragedy because the federal mineral estate is known to contain tens of billions of barrels of oil and natural gas equivalents. If we were to develop all of this, we would more quickly accomplish energy independence and create millions of jobs in the process. A recent report by the Institute for Energy Research, which is based on the most recent government data estimates that robust development of federal resources would generate $14.4 trillion in economic activity, create 2.5 million jobs, and cut the deficit by $2.7 trillion over the next forty years.
Though the president could make it easier to develop these natural resources, the president and his administration have demonstrated that they are unwilling to do so. The American people should no longer have to wait for the economic benefits that responsible development of oil and gas reserves on public land can bring.
We need to dramatically reengineer our federal energy policy. That is why we are introducing the Federal Land Freedom Act. This bill would give states the power to develop all forms of energy on federal lands located within their borders. It will allow the safe, effective, and robust development of federal resources without the federal government and President Obama getting in the way. And despite what some extremists may say, this legislation preserves deserving landscapes by prohibiting drilling in our National Parks, National Wildlife Refuges and congressionally designated wilderness areas.
The federal government was never meant to own and control the vast amount of land it does today, or the resources underneath it. And the 10th Amendment provides extensive deference to the states to exercise power over things not explicitly given to the federal government in the Constitution, which makes no mention of energy reserves.
It’s time for us to return federalism to our national energy discussion and give states the trust our Founders intended them to have. The states have the experience and expertise to protect the environment and allow for economic growth through energy production. Allowing the states to work with business to develop our vast natural resources will immediately expand domestic energy production, create jobs, and enable us to fully achieve domestic energy independence.
Inhofe was first elected to the Senate from Oklahoma in 1994 and is Ranking Member on the Armed Services Committee. Cruz was elected to the Senate from Texas in 2012. Black represents Tennessee's 6th congressional district since 2011 and serves on the House Budget and Ways and Means committees. Bishop is serving his sixth term representing Utah's 1st congressional district and sits on the House Rules, Armed Services and Natural Resources committees.