Recently released data compiled by the federal government shows oil production on federal lands is up from last year, while natural gas production is down. Overall, the energy sector is booming, but industry analysts say companies are shifting from natural gas to wetter plays because of low natural gas prices. But even though production is up, some industry groups point out that it's increasing more quickly on private lands and blame the trend on slow permitting by the federal government.
But not everyone interprets the data that way. Greg Zimmerman is the Policy Director at the Center for Western Priorities. He says companies are just going where the money is, which happens to be in areas with less public land.
“The oil and gas companies are making decision based off of where the best commodity is, and the most profitable commodity is, and recently that’s been oil and that’s precisely why we’ve been seeing them drill in North Dakota and Texas where there just isn’t a whole lot of federal lands,” says Zimmerman.
Kathleen Sgamma, with the Western Energy Alliance, an energy development advocacy group, disagrees. She says a high ratio of federal land in places like Wyoming clearly puts the West at a disadvantage.
“There’s some advantages in the east from, you know, you’re closer to large populations so some of the infrastructure costs, you know, sometimes can be a factor. But you know in general if you’re looking at the west compared to the east, or you know say Wyoming compared to the Bakken in North Dakota, the biggest difference is those federal public lands,” Sgamma says.
Data isn't available on how many applications there were to drill on federal lands in 2013, but the number of approved permits was at its lowest since 2002.