May 22, 2012
Conservation Update: Report Shows Energy Companies Sitting on 70 Percent of Leases
By Bob Marshall
Sportsmen's groups got some new ammunition in their fight against the energy industry's push to open more public fish and wildlife habitat to development: A new Department of Interior report shows that 70 percent of public areas under lease by energy companies currently are "inactive" - meaning they are neither producing energy or part of an approved or pending development plans.
This helps put the lie to claims by energy's friends in Congress that public lands "locked up" for fish and wildlife are creating a supply problem causing high gas prices.
The report reads:
"Offshore: As of May 2012, nearly 72 percent of the area on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) that companies have leased for oil and gas development – totaling 26 million acres – are not producing or not subject to pending or approved exploration or development plans.
"In the Gulf of Mexico, which holds the largest volume of undiscovered technically recoverable resource (UTRR) on the OCS, 32 million acres are under lease. However, only approximately 10 million acres have approved exploration or development plans, and only 6.4 million of these acres are in production.
"Leased areas in the Gulf of Mexico – that are not producing or not subject to pending or approved exploration and development plans – are estimated to contain 17.9 billion barrels of UTRR oil and 49.7 trillion cubic feet of UTRR natural gas.
"Onshore: As of December 31, 2011, approximately 56 percent of total acres of public land under lease in the Lower 48 States – totaling approximately 20.7 million acres - are not undergoing either production nor exploration activities.
"As of September 30, 2011, there are over 7,000 approved permits to drill on public and Indian lands that have not yet been acted on by companies.
"Roughly 76 percent of the onshore acres offered for sale between October 1, 2010,and September 30, 2011, were bid on and sold for oil and gas activities."
So when you hear someone yell "we need to open up that backcountry to drilling," ask them "Why?"
It certainly isn't because the energy industry lacks leases.
This is more proof sportsmen can show their congressional delegation - and their neighbors - why opening up protected fish and wildlife habitat to more leasing isn't necessary. They should all remember once a lease is granted on public lands, it is almost impossible to stop development that devastates fish and wildlife, and ruins hunting and fishing.