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.
California 47th District
Maryland 4th District
California 16th District
Massachusetts 3rd District
California 2nd District
Virginia 8th District
Florida 9th District
California 44th District
Raúl M. Grijalva
Arizona 3rd District
Oil: Production and Imports
- Under President Obama, U.S. oil production has increased 90%, and is now at the highest level since 1970.
- U.S. oil imports have fallen by 26% in the same time, going from nearly 10 million barrels of crude oil per day to just over 7 million barrels per day.
- Despite misleading Republican claims, federal land is oil production from onshore Federal land is up 45% since 2008.
- The Obama Administration has 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: the Department of Interior has issued seven offshore wind leases in the Atlantic over the past two years, and the nation’s first offshore wind turbines are close to being installed.
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.
- Oil and gas companies currently hold 47.5 million acres of leases on public land that aren’t producing oil and gas – an area larger than the State of Washington.
- Companies also had over 5,919 approved but unused permits to drill new wells on Federal and Indian land as of the end of September 2014 – equivalent to roughly two full years of drilling activity.
- 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 was the worst environmental disaster 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 has 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, while Republicans do not.
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.
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 have introduced 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
- Of the roughly 2,500 new wells drilled each year on federal land, roughly 90 percent employ hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, which is governed by a patchwork of state laws that vary widely in their requirements and enforcement.
- Democrats support the 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 are fighting to preserve the existing, inadequate framework.
- 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.