Energy and Mineral Resources

From the abundant solar energy in the desert southwest to the winds blowing off the Atlantic coast, from oil and gas deposits in the Gulf of Mexico to the gold mines of Nevada, America’s mineral and energy resources on public lands are a precious endowment.

The Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources oversees these valuable public resources, ensuring they are developed in a safe and equitable manner and that U.S. taxpayers are properly compensated for their use.

Committee Democrats


    Ranking Member
  • Alan Lowenthal
    California 47th District
  • Anthony  Brown
    Maryland 4th District
  • Jim Costa
    California 16th District
  • Niki Tsongas
    Massachusetts 3rd District
  • Jared  Huffman
    California 2nd District
  • Don Beyer
    Virginia 8th District
  • Darren  Soto
    Florida 9th District
  • Nanette  Barragán
    California 44th District
  • Raúl M. Grijalva
    Arizona 3rd District

Oil: Production and Imports

  • Between 2008 and 2015, under President Obama, U.S. oil production increased 108%, reaching the highest level since 1970.
  • U.S. oil imports fell by 31% over the same period, going from nearly 10 million barrels of crude oil per day to just over 7 million barrels per day.
  • Despite misleading Republican claims,  oil production from onshore Federal land went up 77% since 2008.

EMR Chart 1

EMR Chart 2

Renewable Energy

  • The Obama administration approved nearly 15,000 Megawatts of renewable energy on public lands – enough to power over 4 million homes. Prior to 2009, there were no solar plants on public lands, but since then 33 projects have been approved with a capacity of over 9,200 Megawatts.
  • To facilitate responsible and efficient renewable energy development, the Department of Interior has begun competitively offering solar leases in specially identified zones that have undergone preliminary environmental review. The first sale brought in $5.8 million in bids from three projects, which were all approved for development in less than 10 months.
  • Our nation’s tremendous offshore wind resource is just beginning to get harnessed: under President Obama, the Department of Interior issued twelve offshore wind leases in the Atlantic Ocean, and the nation’s first offshore wind turbines were recently installed off the coast of Rhode Island.

Ensuring A Fair Return

  • Onshore royalty rates for oil and gas have stayed the same for nearly 100 years, and are lower than Western states and private landowners.
  • Companies pay only $1.50 to $2 annually per acre to hold leased land they’re not producing oil or gas from, rock-bottom rates that have remained unchanged for nearly 30 years.
  • Democrats support efforts to increase these rates and make oil companies pay their fair share to the American people; Republicans are trying to make sure these obsolete rates don’t change.
  • The Trump administration has repealed a rule to ensure that companies are paying their fair share of royalties, robbing taxpayers of nearly $75 million a year that instead will pad oil and gas company profits.

Diligent Development

  • Oil and gas companies currently hold 26.1 million acres of leases on public land that aren’t producing oil and gas – an area larger than the State of Kentucky.
  • Companies held 7,950 approved but unused permits to drill new wells on Federal and Indian land as of the end of September 2016 – equivalent to over nine full years of drilling activity at 2016 rates.
  • Democrats believe that oil companies need to diligently develop those areas they already have access to before attempting to drill in sensitive or pristine areas that are better used for recreation, wildlife protection, or conservation.

Ensuring Responsible Offshore Development

  • The Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill in 2010 were the worst environmental disasters in our nation’s history, with an estimated 170 million gallons of oil polluting the Gulf of Mexico.
  • The House passed comprehensive offshore safety reform legislation under a Democratic majority in 2010, but that did not become law. Republicans have focused their legislative efforts since then on expanding opportunities for companies to drill offshore, not on improving safety or environmental safeguards.
  • The Department of the Interior stepped forward to issue new offshore drilling safety regulations, designed to protect particularly sensitive areas such as the Arctic and to improve critical equipment such as blowout preventers. Democrats support these efforts, but the Trump Administration has discussed rolling back or repealing some of these new safety standards.

Reducing Venting, Flaring, And Leaks Of Natural Gas

  • Large volumes of natural gas are regularly flared, vented, or simply leak from Federal oil and gas leases. This lost gas is royalty-free, costing taxpayers tens of millions of dollars every year.
  • Natural gas is primarily made up of methane, which has 25 times the greenhouse gas impact of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
  • Democrats believe that minimizing venting, flaring, and leakage of natural gas on public lands is an important way that the nation can reduce its carbon footprint and improve returns to taxpayers. To support this goal, Committee Democrats are leading legislation to charge royalties on wasted gas and establish strong rules to ensure gas capture.
  • The Trump Administration has announced its intent to repeal the Bureau of Land Management’s Methane Waste rule, which will cost taxpayers millions of dollars each year and result in the unnecessary waste of natural gas.

Modernizing Hardrock Mining

  • Mining of gold, silver, copper, and other metals on public lands is still governed by the Mining Law of 1872, an antiquated statute that was designed to encourage the settlement of the American West.
  • Since that law was passed, mining companies–many of them foreign-owned–have taken over $300 billion worth of valuable metals from public lands without paying a nickel in royalties to the American people.
  • Natural Resources Committee Democrats support legislation to modernize hardrock mining in America by requiring companies to pay a royalty on public minerals they mine, strengthening environmental and reclamation standards, protecting special places such as roadless areas and wild and scenic rivers from mining, and devoting resources to cleaning up our long legacy of abandoned mine lands.

Regulating Fracking on Public Lands

  • Roughly 90 percent of wells drilled on federal lands employ hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is governed by a patchwork of state laws that vary widely in their requirements and enforcement.
  • Democrats supported Obama Administration’s efforts to set new baseline protections for safe and responsible fracking on federal lands, which still allow states to establish stronger regulations. House Republicans fought to preserve the existing, inadequate framework. The Trump Administration has indicated it will not attempt to regulate fracking on public land.
  • House Democrats also support repealing loopholes that exempt fracking and oil and gas development from a number of bedrock environmental laws, such as the Safe Drinking Water Act, the Clean Air Act, and the Clean Water Act.

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