Statistics Confirm Federal Lands Are Not Keeping Pace

April 9, 2014
  • Number of oil and natural gas permits approved lowest since 2002
  • West competitively disadvantaged by greater share of federal lands
  • Industry investments shifting to private and state lands

(DENVER) – Recently released Bureau of Land Management (BLM) statistics continue to demonstrate why oil and natural gas production on federal lands is simply not keeping pace with similar state and private lands. The number of Applications for Permit to Drill (APD) approved in 2013, at 3,770, was at the lowest level since 2002. With leasing likewise down, it is clear producers are choosing to move off federal lands to avoid expensive and lengthy delays.

As Western Energy Alliance’s Western Oil and Natural Gas Dashboard shows, the federal share of oil production in the West has fallen to just 21 percent, from 32 percent in 2008, while federal natural gas production is down 13 percent. Meanwhile, western states are losing ground to other areas of the country without large amounts of public lands.

Running rig counts illustrate the shift as well. While the total U.S. rig count remained steady from February 2008 to February 2014, states with large amounts of federal acreage like Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah experienced drops of 47 percent, 29 percent and 38 percent respectively, while states with predominately non-federal production like North Dakota, Ohio, and Pennsylvania saw increases of 211 percent, 233 percent and 179 percent, according to Baker Hughes data. Companies are clearly shifting development away federal lands to avoid bureaucratic delays.

“Western Energy Alliance has been drawing the contrast between production on federal versus non-federal lands for quite some time and BLM’s recent data confirms the continued trend,” said Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government & public affairs. “The dramatic increase in oil and natural gas production is the result of private sector investment on mainly private and state lands. Where the federal government has the most control, on federal lands, production is simply not keeping pace, as producers are leaving for areas where it’s not a constant struggle to get through the bureaucracy.

“One aspect of BLM’s data we take issue with is average APD processing times. BLM displays a chart on its statistics page, but no raw data to support it. We know from a Government Accountability Office report that BLM field offices do not track those data in a consistent manner, and therefore conclusions about how much time is spent by industry versus the government or even overall processing times cannot be drawn,” concluded Sgamma.