WASHINGTON — Rep. James Lankford challenged a key Obama administration official on Thursday over the contention that domestic oil and gas production had benefited from the president's energy policies.
Lankford sounded almost incredulous when Tommy Beaudreau, an acting assistant secretary at the Interior Department, said the administration's policies were responsible for the boom in oil and gas production.
“It almost sounds like you said ‘yes' on that,” Lankford said, referring to Beaudreau's response to a Democratic lawmaker.
“Which policies in particular from the administration have increased the production of oil and gas in the United States?”
Beaudreau replied, “Our broad strategy and broad policies to promote responsible energy development I think are the right ones.”
Beaudreau said he rejected the notion that the Obama administration had worked to impede energy production.
Lankford said that was a different question than whether the administration's policies had actually led to increased production. Many producers, he said, would assert that they have moved their efforts to state and private lands because of obstacles to drilling on federal land.
“To talk about credit or blame I think is beside the point in a lot of respects,” Beaudreau responded. “I think we do support what is happening on the energy front. It's good for the country … and we're going to continue to pursue it.”
Sitting on a gold mine
Lankford, chairman of a subcommittee that oversees energy policy, held a hearing on energy production on federal land on the same day the administration proposed a new rule to regulate hydraulic fracturing for public leases. Lankford and other GOP lawmakers contend the rule is unnecessary since states already regulate the practice.
Lankford said the administration had already delayed more production on federal lands by taking so long to approve drilling permits.
Beaudreau acknowledged that the Interior Department had not been as “nimble” as the oil and gas industry.
More resources should be devoted to areas of the country where production has accelerated so permits can be granted more quickly, he said.
Democrats on the panel pointed to the increased oil and gas production since President Barack Obama took office and said energy companies that had won leases on federal land weren't drilling on the acreage.
And Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said the oil and gas on federal lands that wasn't being developed wouldn't dissipate.
“One could argue we're sitting on a gold mine,” she said.