NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

States Are Better Prepared to Manage Federal Lands

February 24, 2015

The United States lead the world in both natural gas and oil production.  And yet, production of the "centuries worth" of natural gas, oil and coal resources hiding under the surface of private property and state and federal land is not seeing its full potential. The new bill, The Federal Lands and Freedom Act, introduced by Rep. Diane Black (R-TN) and Senator James Inhofe (R-OK) could be a path to economic growth by giving states the authority to establish regulatory programs and administer leasing and permitting for developing energy resources on federal lands.

The problem the new bill addresses is the vast size of the federal estate and their inability to properly manage the resources.

For instance:

  • In 2011, the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) revealed it was two years behind in its Wyoming oil and gas lease sales, worth more than $50 million.
  • In 1998, the BLM leased only 12.2 million acres out of 248 million acres of federal land and 700 million acres of underground mineral resources.
  • Only one-tenth of the same federal land was available for lease in 2014.

By contrast, states have proven their regulatory structures are effective in resource management. In 2005, a federal drilling application through the BLM took 154 days to complete while state governments could do the same in 30 days.

Passing Representative Black's and Senator Inhofe's bill would put land and mineral responsibilities in the hands of those closest to the resources. Ultimately, state management of federal lands will benefit the economy by adding jobs and nurturing oil and gas production. 

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


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