For House Republicans, the season of oil and gas giveaways has begun

As reported by Politico’s Andrew Restuccia, Tuesday, House Republicans will spend the summer trying to breathe new life into tired ideas filled with industry giveaways. It’s no wonder given these politicians receive huge contributions from the oil and gas industry. Ironically, these “conservatives” want more mandates and quotas for oil companies while also cutting common sense protections for our air and water.

What Congress should focus its energy on – and what people in the West support – is balance between conservation and energy development. Instead of handouts to oil companies, our leaders in Washington should promote a diverse and thriving economy that supports main street businesses, farming and ranching, tourism, and outdoor recreation.

GOP House leadership has already said it will move the same failed giveaways it tried to push through last year, and the year before that. The problem they’re already running into is that they’ve already tried – and failed – to dupe Americans into thinking these handouts are anything else. Even a Republican energy adviser quoted in Restuccia’s story said, “It’s probably going to look a lot like it’s looked in the last four or five years.”

Westerners want more out of their elected officials than repeated political plays and messaging bills for the oil and gas industry. They want a real balance between protecting the public lands that support and attract high-wage businesses and using them to produce American-made energy.

Here’s a quick preview of the rhetoric we can expect to hear from House Republicans this summer, and the facts they will ignore:

The economy

numbers_graphicShot: Failure to open more federal lands to drilling will hurt job creation and economic growth in Western communities.

Chaser: Western states have grown out of the boom and bust cycle that comes with relying solely on energy development. Protecting as much public land as we lease will further build out the outdoor recreation industry, which already accounts for $64 billion in annual spending, 6 million jobs and nearly $80 billion in local, state and federal taxes.

Price at the pump

Shot: These bills are an important step toward bringing down gasoline prices.

Chaser: In 2012, an Associated Press study showed that oil production has no effect on gas prices. Meanwhile, a Goldman Sachs analysis found that Wall Street speculation was adding more than $23 to the price of crude, or as much as $0.56 per gallon at the pump.

Drilling on private lands

Shot: Increased pressure to develop on private lands is just one result of the slowdown of public lands energy development by this administration .

Chaser: The latest oil boom in the lower 48 states is due largely to an unconventional resource known as “shale oil,” (oil trapped within shale rock). The vast majority of both “shale oil” and “shale gas” (natural gas trapped within shale rock) is found under private, not public, lands. The location of these resources – not safeguards to protect air quality and water supplies – explain the shift in drilling from public to private lands.
shale_locationAdam Sieminski, U.S. House, Subcommittee on Energy and Power Committee on Energy and Commerce, 2 August 2012

Permitting delays

Shot: Regulatory hurdles, long delays, and policies that keep federal lands under lock-and-key have become all too common.

Chaser: Industry is responsible for the majority of permitting delays. Last year, BLM announced it is moving to an online permitting system that will hopefully help companies cut down the time it takes them to properly file permit applications.
permit_timingBLM Table of Average Application for Permit to Drill (APD) Approval Timeframes: FY2005 – FY2012


Shot: The Obama administration is playing fast and loose with drilling permit pledges.

Chaser: Industry does not use the drilling permits that have already been issued for oil and gas development. In fact, there are nearly 7,000 unused drilling permits that industry could develop on federal public lands.
unused_permitsBLM Approve Permits – Not Drilled table

Idle lands

Shot: President Obama and his Administration have actively blocked, hindered and delayed American energy production.

Chaser: According to the Department of Interior’s Oil and Gas Lease Utilization, Onshore and Offshore report, issued May 2012, “As of March 31, 2012, approximately 56 percent (20.8 million acres) of total onshore acres under lease on public lands in the Lower 48 States were conducting neither production nor exploration activities.
leased_productionDOI Oil and Gas Lease Utilization Report

The facts are not on House Republicans’ side, and neither is public opinion. A recent poll shows 9 out of 10 Westerners agree that national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife areas are an essential part of the economy. Seventy-four percent believe they help attract high quality employers and good jobs to western states.

It’s time we put conserving our treasured public lands back on equal ground with leasing them for oil and gas drilling. If oil- and gas-funded politicians continue to try and resurrect these industry giveaways, they’re just showing where their priorities lie – with the companies that fund them rather than the people they represent.

Same story, different day: Lamborn, Tipton offer-up tired package of oil and gas company giveaways

House Republicans paraded out their latest series of giveaways to the billion-dollar oil and gas industry today in a subcommittee chaired by Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-CO). The bills would increase corporate welfare and a total disregard for western families and the economic health of local communities.

These reckless proposals put forth by Reps. Lamborn, Scott Tipton (R-CO), and Doc Hastings (R-WA) have failed over and over again in Congress because Americans want more out of their representatives than messaging bills for the oil and gas industry. At a time when oil and gas companies are already getting fat on the taxpayers’ dime, it’s appalling that politicians are dishing up yet another industry smorgasbord with zero regard for Western families’ safety and security.

Westerners want a real balance between protecting public lands and energy development. That balance is critical for attracting high-wage businesses and maintaining the billion-dollar outdoor recreation economy in the West.

The three tired bills paraded out yet again today include extreme measures that create quotas and mandates on behalf of oil and gas companies, and encourage risky speculation on publicly owned lands. These reckless proposals would sacrifice our drinking water, air quality, and public lands just to create more handouts that would do nothing to address our energy concerns.

These reckless measures run counter to western values and what’s best for local economies. Recent polling found that 9 out of 10 Westerners agree that national parks, forests, monuments and wildlife areas are an essential part of the economy, while 74% believe that national parks, forests, and monuments, help to attract high quality employers and good jobs to their state.

The outdoor recreation industry alone accounts for $646 billion in annual spending, 6 million jobs and nearly $80 billion in local, state and federal taxes.

Yet, House Republicans continue to push these same reckless proposals, regardless of the potentially devastating impacts to western families and economies – in order to provide more handouts to the billion dollar oil and gas industry which is already hoarding millions of acres of public lands, billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies and is focused on drilling on non-federal lands, where the best and most profitable oil resources are located.

Reps Lamborn, Tipton and Hastings, need to be held accountable for blatant disregard of taxpayer money and their continued attempts to increase corporate welfare for oil and gas companies.

Key provisions from the legislation considered today:

Rep. Lamborn’s bill (HR 1965) would:

  • Block the public from participating in oil and gas leasing decisions by creating “entrance fees” of up to $5,000 to join the conversation.
  • Mandate leasing and encourage costly oil shale speculation that has a century-long track record of failure despite billions in taxpayer-funded subsidies.
  • Roll back the Obama Administration’s common sense approach to the failed “rock that burns,” oil shale, which would put already scarce western water at risk.

Rep. Tipton’s bill (HR 1394) would:

  • Establish energy development – especially fossil fuels – as the primary use of public lands, jeopardizing the billion-dollar outdoor recreation and tourism industries and the thousands of western jobs that they create.
  • Require the Department of Interior to prioritize oil, gas and coal over renewable energy development.

Rep. Hastings bill (HR 1964) would:

  • Fast track approval of drilling permits, roads and pipelines in the National Petroleum Reserve (NPR-A) in Alaska, regardless of potential environmental impacts.
  • Eliminate the “integrated activity plan” for NPR-A that balances energy development with protection of wildlife habitat and other critical areas.

Tipton staffer goes to WEA, raises his ties to oil and gas companies

Colorado Congressman Scott Tipton’s close and questionable ties to oil companies have been a source of controversy since he was first elected. These include:

  • His campaign contributions from oil companies;
  • His financial investments in oil companies lobbying for the Keystone Pipeline – which he voted in favor of , and
  • His ties to SG Interests, an oil company recently ordered to pay $275,000 in fines to settle a federal anti-trust law suit. In 2012, SG Interests started a super PAC to help re-elect Tipton.

Last week, Coloradoans were given another look behind the curtain at Rep. Tipton’s cozy relationship to Big Oil as a former Tipton aide announced he is joining Western Energy Alliance – an oil and gas lobbying group known to be critical of drilling safety standards.

Last year, WEA representatives testified on behalf of a Tipton bill that would mandate energy development as the primary use of all public lands – which would leave agriculture, hunting, fishing, outdoor recreation, and watershed interests out in the cold.

We understand that Rep. Tipton is influenced by his addiction to Big Oil contributions and the size of his personal net worth. But, at some point he needs to put the Coloradoans who elected him before big oil company CEOs.

It’s DÉJÀ vu all over again – Oil-backed politicians hold conference call to push new handouts to oil companies

The House Majority leadership has declared it will bring a package of  “oil-above-all” bills to a vote next week. They’re calling the bills the Domestic Energy and Jobs Act (DEJA). We’re calling it the DÉJÀ VU bills, because it’s simply more of the same: Oil-sponsored politicians are trying to create new government handouts to their oil industry campaign contributors.

Today, House Majority Whip Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), House Natural Resources Chair Doc Hastings (R-Wash.) and Rep. Cory Gardner (R-Colo.) are getting on a blogger conference call at 11:30 AM EST to talk about the DÉJÀ VU bills. If you’re going to be on that call, we hope you’ll ask them a few questions, since we weren’t invited.

“It’s déjà vu all over again,” said Checks and Balances Co-Director Matt Garrington. “Chairman Hastings, Rep. Gardner and other oil-soaked politicians are trying to disguise new land giveaways to oil companies as job bills. If energy development on more land will create more jobs, why aren’t they trying to force oil company CEOs to use the 20-million acres that are leased to them and laying idle? It’s because oil company CEOs fill their reelection campaign accounts, and these congressmen are singing for their supper.”

  • Rep. Kevin McCarthy has taken $359,300 in oil and gas industry contributions.
  • Rep. Doc Hastings has taken $241,804 in oil and gas industry contributions.
  • Rep. Cory Gardner has taken $304,724 in oil and gas contributions.

*All amounts according to the Center for Responsive Politics (

Here are some facts about the DÉJÀ VU bills that McCarthy, Hastings and Gardner are probably hoping you overlooked:

Rep. Cory Gardner’s bill (H.R. 4480)

  • Attempts to increase the amount of land available to oil companies in a blatantly political fashion. The Gardner bill mandates that every time President Obama draws oil from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve (SPR), that the BLM would have to lease an equal percentage of public lands to oil and gas companies. This throws any market-based approach to supply and demand on our public lands out the window. Rep. Gardner fails to call the oil companies to account for the tens of millions of acres currently leased and thousands of permits issued but not yet developed.

Rep. Doug Lamborn’s bill (H.R. 4383)

  • Assesses “a $5,000 documentation fee” on anyone from “the public” who wishes to formally object to a leasing or drilling decision. These decisions affect public lands that are owned by all Americans. In effect, the bill is the equivalent of someone telling you that it will cost you $5,000 just to object to drilling in your front yard.
  • Places limits on how judges are allowed to conduct judicial review. They would be forced to “presume” that initial decisions on leasing and drilling were “correct” and in most cases could only enjoin decisions for no more than sixty days.

Rep. Mike Coffman’s bill (H.R. 4382)

  • Puts the authority for deciding how much public land is available for drilling in the hands of the oil companies instead of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  Coffman’s bill does this by mandating that the BLM offer at least 25 percent of the area nominated for leasing by industry. In order to gain more land, oil companies simply would need to nominate more lands knowing that they’d be guaranteed at least a quarter of the total lands nominated. These are the same oil companies currently sitting on over 20 million acres of idle leases on public lands.
  • Rolls back the Salazar leasing reforms which provide a common sense approach to public lands management. This would prevent local government and other stakeholders from having a say up front in the leasing process and create more conflict on public lands. It would also remove common sense protections for air quality, water quality, and wildlife habitat by allowing oil companies to skirt scientific review prior to drilling. These reforms have been key in reducing conflict and creating more certainty for industry on how to proceed with a lease once it’s issued.

Rep. Scott Tipton’s bill (H.R. 4381)

  • Ignores the balanced land use approach that we’ve developed in Colorado, and instead mandates that energy development be the primary use of all public land. This leaves ranchers, outdoor recreation businesses, watershed protection, and hunting and fishing in the dust.
  • Disposes of the current “multiple-use” mandate under which most of the public lands are managed. Instead, the Secretary of the Interior would be mandated to “take all necessary actions” to reach an objective for energy development on public lands. That objective would be decided by Washington insiders and likely with undue oil industry input, instead of feedback from Coloradans.

We urge any bloggers on today’s conference call to question the congressmen on these points and see what they have to say. But if you get a little dizzy, don’t worry. You’re just feeling DÉJÀ VU.

New Push For Oil Shale Is Continued Failure

On May 1, 1982, nearly 10,000 people worked at Exxon’s Colony Oil Shale project on Colorado’s Western Slope. Twenty-four hours later, Exxon shut the Colony project down. Thousands of people were left jobless and the region’s economy was devastated. This week marks 30 years since the disaster at Colony; what was to become known as Black Sunday.

While Colony is the most dramatic example of the failure of oil shale as a commercial energy source, it’s far from the only one:

  • In 1991, Unocal closed the country’s “most successful” try at an oil shale project in Parachute Creek, Colo. After a decade of trying, the project had swallowed tens of millions of dollars in taxpayer subsidies, and Unocal lost $7 million.
  • In 1981, Chevron and Conoco Shale oil began work on their Clear Creek project, located on a private 25,000-acre site north of De Beque. Construction at the site was halted in 1984.
  • In the 1970s, four companies acquired a federal prototype C-b oil shale lease. The lease was suspended in 1987 and pumping on the production on the lease was stopped in 1991. No oil was ever produced from this lease.

Time has apparently healed oil company wounds for politicians to push this failed resource. There is a new push to drill for this unproven energy source. Spearheading this push is a handful of Congressional heels, Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo.), Rep. Scott Tipton (R-Colo.) and Rep. Mike Coffman (R-Colo.). They recently teamed with Speaker John Boehner to push Lamborn’s PIONEERS Act through the House.

The giveaway is a continuation of a 100-year sink of tax dollars and public lands used to develop oil shale. All have failed. Yet today, industry lobbyists, and the politicians that take money from them are trying to throw more good taxpayer money after bad in an effort to distract from rising gas prices and increase government handouts to oil and gas companies.

Oil shale itself is a misnomer. It is actually rock containing an organic substance called kerogen. The rocks haven’t been in the ground for enough time or under enough pressure to become oil. Oil companies need to recreate geological forces to produce any energy from it. Ideas for developing oil shale have included baking acres of land at 700 degrees for three to four years and even detonating an atomic bomb underground.

The lack of an efficient way to create energy from this rock – which has the energy density of a potato – hasn’t stopped oil companies from using it as a reason to spend money to snatch up public land, or politicians from giving it to them.

If Lamborn, Tipton, and Coffman have their dithers, they would create a host of new giveaways to oil companies such as:

  • Over 2 million acres of public lands for oil shale speculation, even though the oil industry has said, on the record, that it will be at least until 2020 before they know whether commercial oil shale is even possible.
  • “Bargain basement” oil shale royalty rates of 5 percent (compared to a rate of 12.5 percent for onshore oil and gas and 18.75 percent for offshore oil) which would slash revenue to the federal treasury and for local governments, who need the funds to offset the associated costs of energy development such as new roads, utility lines, schools, and fire and police services.

Oil companies themselves have admitted that oil shale is an unready energy source. In fact, Shell Oil, which is recognized as a leader in oil shale research, says the earliest that commercial oil shale technology could be available is next decade, and possibly later: “A commercial decision would be in the middle of the next decade and possibly later depending on the sequence and outcome of research activities.”

Far more valuable to these companies than any potential profit they might receive from extracting a non-cost competitive energy source is the ability to increase their claims to Western lands. Oil companies already have permits to drill on 38.4 million acres of public BLM land, an area larger than the state of Georgia. Of that land, 57 percent remains unused. Congressmen Lamborn, Tipton and Coffman should tell their oil industry benefactors to use the land they have before pushing a bill that would give more of our public land to oil companies for a return that is the equivalent of small potatoes.


Colorado politicians fast track new giveaways to donor oil companies

Matt Garrington, Denver-based co-director of The Checks and Balances Project, offered the following statement and facts regarding today’s hearing on Colorado House Republicans’ three bills to give away more of the West to the oil and gas industry: H.R. 4381, H.R. 4382 and H.R. 4383.

“Reps. Lamborn, Tipton and Coffman are doing a great job playing the Three Stooges for the oil and gas industry, but the American public isn’t laughing.

“Taking away the public’s right to participate in decisions about land we own is criminal. It’s clear that these representatives are working on behalf of industry groups like Western Energy Alliance (WEA) and not the public.

“Why else would they invite WEA Vice President Kathleen Sgamma to testify about why they should shut their own constituents out of decisions about what happens to their public lands?

“We should be discussing real solutions to gas prices, such as aggressively investing in high tech vehicles and renewable energy, increasing fuel efficiency for cars and trucks, and cracking down on Wall Street oil speculators.

“All this legislation will do is lock the public out of our public lands and put more money in the pocket of oil company CEOs.”


H.R. 4383 creates a $5,000 fee for individuals who wish to participate in the decision-making process for oil and gas development on publicly owned lands. That includes families living near drilling sites who could be forced to live with the effects of drilling on their air and drinking water.

H.R. 4382 outlaws the right of public, local governments, and stakeholders to review lease sales, preventing new information from affecting leasing decisions. It also prevents the BLM from revising leasing plants.

H.R. 4381 gives oil companies first crack at all federal lands, rather than creating a level playing field between renewable energy and fossil fuels. It puts drilling über alles – making it the primary use of public lands above scientific, scenic, historical, ecological, environmental, air and atmospheric, water resource, and archeological values.


  • Oil production hit an 8-year high in 2011 at 2,070,454 thousand barrels.
  • Natural gas production was at an all-time high in 2011 at 28,577,562 MMcf.
  • Federal public lands leased in FY11 was 38.4 million acres compared to just 12.3 million acres leased and in production.
  • The BLM approved 4,244 drilling permits on federal lands in FY11 was 4,244, outpacing the number of new wells spudded on public lands which was 3,260.
  • Drilling activity reached its highest level under the Obama administration than at any point since the Reagan administration.

Colorado House GOP pander for more oil and gas lobby dollars

Matt Garrington, Co-Director of The Checks and Balances Project, offered the following statement and facts regarding the introduction of Colorado House Republicans’ three bills to give away more of the West to the oil and gas industry: H.R. 4381, H.R. 4382 and H.R. 4383.

“Colorado House Republicans clearly know who is in charge of the U.S. House – Big Oil. It’s painful to watch members of Congress so blatantly pander for oil and gas lobby dollars.

“Instead of pushing legislation that amounts to nothing more than cheap gimmicks and handouts to industry, Rep. Lamborn, Rep. Coffman and Rep. Tipton should offer real solutions to high gas prices.

“If we want to get serious about gas prices, we should end tax breaks to oil and gas companies and reinvest those funds in American energy solutions such as high tech vehicles, the next generation of renewable fuels, and transportation solutions. We should also crackdown on Wall Street oil speculators that artificially increase the price of gas.”


  • Natural gas production was at an all-time high in 2011 at 28,577,562 MMcf
  • Federal public lands leased in FY11 was 38.4 millionacres leased and in production.
  • Drilling permits on federal public lands approved in FY11 was 4,244, outpacing the number of new wells spudded on federal public lands which was 3,260
  • As of January 25, 2012, the oil and gas industry had 6,500 unused drilling permits for western federal lands.
  • Drilling activity reached its highest level under the Obama administration than at any point since the Reagan administration.


  • Natural gas production was at an all-time high in 2010 at 1,589,664 MMcf
  • Federal public lands leased in FY11 was 4.38 million acres compared to just 1.47 million acres leased and in production.

Bush administration average: 67
Obama administration average: 60


H.R. 4382, Sponsored by Rep. Coffman (CO-06) – $174,800 in oil and gas contributions

  • Increases oil and gas company speculation on public lands by requiring the Interior Department lease at least 25 percent of lands nominated for leasing by the oil and gas industry each year.
  • Ignores the fact that 57% of oil and gas leases – covering 21.6 million acres – lay idle
  • Prohibits Interior Department from making common sense decisions about whether leasing decisions should move forward when conflicts arise with other values such as water, wildlife habitat, and outdoor recreation.
  • Eliminates oil and gas leasing reforms which have reduced conflicts and litigation over drilling, ensured stronger conservation measures are implemented alongside responsible energy development, and provided a seat at the table for local government, outdoor recreation businesses, and the community.

H.R. 4381, Sponsored by Rep. Tipton (CO-03) – $111,600 in oil and gas contributions

  • Mandates the Interior Department to develop a new energy development plan every four years – but sets the table against renewable energy from consideration.
  • Ignores market forces by requiring arbitrary “necessary actions” to facilitate energy development on the public lands.

H.R. 4383, Sponsored by Rep. Lamborn (CO-05) – $137,962 in oil and gas contributions

  • Puts arbitrary deadlines on the permit approval process, especially given the fact that BLM continually issues far more drilling permits than the number of new wells industry drills on federal lands.
  • Establishes a $5,000 administrative fee for protests to leases, permits, and right-of-ways as well as creating arbitrary barriers to judicial review when the public, state and local governments, and others wish to challenge unwise leasing and development decisions.
  • Ignores the fact that industry has failed to develop more than 6,500 drilling permits.