NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Let the States Manage Federal Lands

February 20, 2015

The United States has experienced massive growth in the energy sector in recent years, but it's all due to oil production on private and state lands: since 2009, production on state and private lands has increased by a staggering 61 percent, while oil production on federal lands has dropped 9 percent. This growth, write Katie Tubb and Nicolas Loris of the Heritage Foundation, has taken place despite the fact that 43 percent of crude oil reserves are on federal lands.

Americans have benefited from greater oil and gas production, because more production means lower oil and gas prices, enabling American businesses to be more competitive and putting more money in American consumers' pockets.

How can the United States keep this energy boom going? Tubb and Loris point to a new proposal from Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.) and Representative Diane Black (R-Tenn.): the Federal Lands Freedom Act. The bill would transfer power to the states, giving them the authority to lease, permit and regulate energy resource development on federal lands within their borders and enabling America to take advantage of its vast resources.

The federal government owns the vast majority -- 81 percent -- of Nevada lands, along with 66.48 percent of Utah, 61.79 percent of Alaska, 61.65 percent of Idaho and 53.03 percent of Oregon, not to mention substantial portions of Arizona, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, Wyoming and Washington. Unfortunately, the federal government is a poor and inefficient land manager. For example, Tubb and Loris note that it takes the Bureau of Land Management 227 days on average to complete a drilling application; it takes just 30 days to complete the same application at the state level. And that is just one step in the lengthy process to extract oil and gas on federal lands.

Under state management, Tubb and Loris explain that states could develop their own regulatory programs to harvest and care for America's natural resources. The efficiency that would come from state management (for example, it takes just four days to process an oil and gas permit in Texas, 10 days in California and 21 days in Ohio) would mean higher levels of production and less time (and money) spent dealing with bureaucratic red tape. Moreover, opening up lands would mean a host of new jobs for Americans -- according to Tubb and Loris, the private sector saw just 1 percent job creation from 2007 to 2012. During the same time period, job creation in the oil and gas sector grew by a whopping 40 percent.

Source: Katie Tubb and Nicolas D. Loris, "The Federal Lands Freedom Act: Empowering States to Control Their Own Energy Futures," Heritage Foundation, February 18, 2015. 


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