Today, the Interior Department released a report which shows that the oil and gas industry continues to hold millions of acres of leased lands and waters where neither production or exploration activities are being conducted. The report comes ahead of a legislative package of land giveaways by three Colorado Congressman which is up for a vote tomorrow in Colorado House Natural Resources Committee.

Following are quotes from organizations, former land managers, and local officials as well as key findings and need-to-know facts about oil and gas development.

“As the oil and gas industry continues its rampant speculation on millions of acres of public lands, Americans should be outraged that politicians backed by oil and gas contributions are pushing for more handouts to industry. As oil and gas companies sit on more than 20 million acres of public lands, more giveaways to Big Oil will do absolutely nothing to address American energy needs.”

–          Matt Garrington, Co-Director, Checks and Balances Project.

“I’ve got a real problem with the oil and gas industry asking for more giveaways like cutting clean water protections that protect agriculture when they don’t use what they already have. If we want a sensibly encourage energy development on public lands, that we need to step up incentives which require oil and gas companies to develop drilling permits and leases which have already been issued.”

–          Bill Eikenberry, third-generation Wyoming rancher and former associate state director of the Bureau of Land Management in Wyoming.


U.S. Department of the Interior. “Oil and Gas Lease Utilization, Onshore and Offshore.”  May 2012.

“Offshore: As of May 2012, nearly 72 percent of the area on the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) that companies have leased for oil and gas development – totaling 26 million acres – are not producing or not subject to pending or approved exploration or development plans.” (Page 3)

“Onshore: As of December 31, 2011, approximately 56 percent of total acres of public land under lease in the Lower 48 States – totaling approximately 20.7 million acres – are not undergoing either production nor exploration activities.” (Page 3)

“As of September 30, 2011, there are over 7,000 approved permits to drill on public and Indian lands that have not yet been acted on by companies.” (Page 3)

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management continues to clear the backlog of drilling permits, issuing more new drilling permits than applications received. In 2011, the BLM processed 5,000 permits compared to 4,278 applications received. In fact, the rate of permitting is at its highest level since 2002. (Page 14)


  • Oil production hit an 8-year high (PDF) in 2011 at 2,070,454 thousand barrels.
  • Natural gas production was at an all-time high (PDF) in 2011 at 28,577,562 MMcf.
  • The BLM approved 4,278 drilling permits on federal lands in FY11, outpacing the number of new wells spudded (PDF) on public lands which was 3,260.
  • As of January 25, 2012, the oil and gas industry had 6,500 unused drilling permits (PDF) for federal lands and a total of 7,000 unused drilling permits for both federal and Indian lands.
  • Drilling activity reached its highest level (PDF) under the Obama administration than at any point since the Reagan administration.