Washington, D.C. – The Department of Interior has responsibilities over several key programs essential to reducing America’s dependence on Middle East oil, Chairman Pete Domenici told DOI Secretary Gale Norton at today’s hearing on DOI ‘07 budget.
Domenici praised DOI for supporting environmentally-gentl oil development in ANWR, a critical step in reducing America’s reliance on foreign oil. He will work to include ANWR in this year’s budget resolution, he said.
Domenici also complimented Norton for DOI’s efforts to begin an oil shale leasing program this year. “I am very excited about the potential for this country to tap its gigantic oil reserves from oil shale. I am pleased to see that you have requested funding for that program. I think there ought to be more that we can do to spur development of this resource, and I look forward to working with you on that.”
The United States has an estimated 860 billion barrels of recoverable oil in oil shale in Utah, Colorado and Wyoming. DOI is expected to issue eight research leases to competing companies some time this year for oil shale development on public lands in Utah and Colorado. DOI will issue 160-acre leases for six projects in Colorado and two in Utah before June. Oil extracted oil shale would cost between $40 and $80 a barrel to produce, according to some companies competing for the leases.
Domenici then urged Norton to move swiftly to get the streamlined permitting pilot programs for oil and gas leases up and running. The pilot program operates in seven Bureau of Land Management Offices in New Mexico, Utah, Colorado, Montana and Wyoming.
“We want you to move ahead quickly in getting those permits out the door,” he said. He noted that the Office of Management and Budget wanted the committee to amend the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to allow lease rent from new leases in those states to go into the U.S. Treasury. Congress, in the energy bill, authorized BLM to keep that money – approximately $20 million annually – to fund the pilot programs. That’s where the money will stay, Domenici said. “The repeal of those provisions won’t take place up here,” he said.
The pilot program in the energy bill is intended to bring more oil and gas to market sooner by ending the months and years of bureaucratic delays in the issuance of drilling permits. Get it done, he urged the Secretary.
Secretary Gale Norton's testimony can be found at: http://energy.senate.gov/public/index.cfm?FuseAction=Hearings.Testimony&Hearing_ID=1532&Witness_ID=1484