Butterfield questions offshore drilling

Washington, D.C. —- Congressman G. K. Butterfield has urged House leaders to hold a hearing to examine whether opening additional federal lands to oil and gas drilling would immediately provide lower prices and increased supply.

“If big oil and gas companies are neglecting the many onshore and offshore opportunities to increase production and lower prices they have already been given, why is there a need to even begin considering risky schemes to drill off the shores of places like North Carolina,” Butterfield said.

Butterfield pointed out that the vast majority of federal oil and gas resources have already been made available for development. It is currently estimated that 81 percent of all oil and gas resources on federal lands both onshore and offshore are already available for development or will be pending the completion of land-use planning or environmental reviews.

While the opportunities exist, Butterfield said, the oil and gas companies have chosen not to move aggressively to increase production. Since 2004, oil and gas companies have stockpiled and then stood idle on almost 10,000 domestic drilling permits covering 68 million acres of federal land. Offshore, just 10.5 million of the 44 million leased acres are currently being used to produce oil or gas.

With this in mind, Butterfield has asked Committee on Natural Resources Chairman Nick J. Rahall and Committee on Energy and Commerce Chairman John D. Dingell to hold a joint committee hearing to examine the issue. Ideally, Butterfield said, oil and gas companies would provide information about the failure to increase production in the face of so many opportunities.

Butterfield said that if the inactive leases already granted were put to good use immediately, an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil and 44.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas could be produced each day. That would nearly double the total U.S. oil production, and increase natural gas production by 75 percent. The oil production represents over 14 years of current U.S. consumption, and 30 years of current domestic natural gas consumption.

Some members of Congress have pushed to open more coastal waters, including those along North Carolina’s shores, to oil and gas drilling.

“The debate should not be whether to further expand drilling off the shores of places like North Carolina, but why oil and gas companies are stockpiling and sitting idle on the existing opportunities,” Butterfield said. “Rather than debate risky offshore drilling schemes, we need to be holding gas and oil companies accountable for failing to act on the existing opportunities.”