With oil companies and Republicans criticizing the Obama administration for being too slow to issue new offshore drilling permits in the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the Interior Department hit back with a report yesterday revealing that the industry isn’t using the majority of the leases it already has. More than 70% of offshore leases and more than half of onshore leases on federal lands currently “sit idle,” according to the report.
“These are resources that belong to the American people,” said Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, “and they expect those supplies to be developed in a timely and responsible manner.” But oil companies counter that a lot of planning and data collection is required before they can begin producing, which accounts for many sites the government classifies as inactive. “We do not hold leases that we do not plan to develop,” one Chevron spokesman told the Washington Post. The report comes ahead of a speech on energy President Obama is to deliver today. (Read more offshore drilling stories.)