Legislation introduced by U.S. Sen. John Barrasso could allow states to oversee oil and gas development on federal tracts. (Greg Nickerson / WyoFile)

U.S.  Sen. John Barrasso (R) Thursday introduced legislation to empower states to manage oil and gas production on federal lands as the Republican-controlled Congress aims to ease energy development on public property.

The new legislation, the “Opportunities for the Nation and States to Harness Onshore Resources for Energy Act” or “ONSHORE Act,” mirrors a portion of energy legislation approved by the House Natural Resources Committee last fall.

Under Barrasso’s proposal, the Interior Department could allow states to oversee oil and gas development on federal tracts so long as those states can demonstrate they would be “at least as effective as the Secretary in issuing APDs [applications for permit to drill] or in approving drilling plans, as applicable.”

Like its House counterpart, the legislation would prohibit Interior from enforcing federal regulations on hydraulic fracturing when states have their own rules and would require the department to resolve any protests to mineral leases within 60 days of payment.

Natural Resources Chairman Rob Bishop (R-Utah), who sponsored the House measure, H.R. 4239, praised the Senate legislation.

“I applaud Senator Barrasso for introducing companion legislation to spur greater development of the vast energy resources of America’s federal estate,” Bishop said. “This bill will not only strengthen the nation’s energy security, it will increase revenues to states, support critical infrastructure projects and fund essential public services. I look forward to working with the Senate to get this bicameral legislation signed into law.”

Barrasso’s office didn’t respond to a request for comment.

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The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources is holding a hearing to review the Trump administration’s attempts to ease restrictions on energy extraction on public lands, particularly for oil, gas and coal producers.

“While the Department has been proactive in addressing regulatory burdens that discourage energy production, much work remains in getting bureaucracy out of the way of responsibly and timely development of our domestic resources,” subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) said in his opening remarks.

Reprinted from E&E News with permission. Copyright 2018. E&E provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at www.eenews.net.

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  1. Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) can produce around 60% of the oil in place, using Carbon Dioxide (CO2) in Water Alternating Gas (WAG) operations. Horizontal bore operations are a form of high-grading, that produces ~5_15% of the Oil in Place, leaving much of the rest as stranded, uneconomical to recover.

    The USA currently has about 2 million petroleum wells. Each penetration of the caprock, is another potential leak path. Relying on fracking will substantially increase the number of wells, over the proven technologies used in EOR.

    Substitution of organic material (guar gum), for inorganic materials (bentonite) in drilling mud, has several unintended consequences. Drillers mix biocides to reduce microbial growth. Nobody, and no critters or plants are likely to be healthy after ingesting biocides. When the biocides lose their potency, microbial ingestion leads to voids, and gas. Pathways for pollution along the outside of the casing, is not accounted for by Bradenhead Testing. Casing integrity, is NOT synonymous with well integrity.

    While the “economic life” of a well is short for private industry, public liabilities stretch for many more years. Once the (very inadequate) performance bonds are released, profits are privatized, and liabilities are socialized. The petroleum industry has used their political bribery, to limit their exposure to legal liabilities.

    Not only will Wyoming’s process be more “expedient” but it will be more corrupt. Moving employees (especially managers), is one way of reducing corruption, not available to States. Federal auditors are also much harder than state employees to ensnare.

    While our republican for of government no longer blocks Factions as effectively due to technological advances (broadcasting, air travel, and the Inter), physical and budgetary separation still impedes corruption. Wyoming needs to charge more for our resources (Texas for instance assesses a 25% royalty valuation), compared to ~16% for Wyoming. Alaska on the other hand, receives a 90% share of the Federal Mineral Royalties, verses 50% for Wyoming.

    We need to play the long game, as well as the short game better. Wyoming needs to do a better job of negotiating, and a better job of using our available tools. Federal protective regulations, are a neglected part of our toolbox.

  2. Speaking broadly here based on experiences around the oil & gas fields of the Big Horn Basin from 2-4 decades ago, I feel that State regulators and State policies are inferior to federal management . In many cases State-run operations are more prone to causing damage or disaster due to lack of rigid oversight. Or more often , the State regulators are just too cozy with industry; too fast and loose ; too easily persuaded to look the other way.

    Anyone remember that natural gas well on State Land up Line Creek out of Clark that blew up. It was allowed to be situated on the very corner of that section of State Land, right alongside a county road and less than 200 yards from the closest residence. No setback ; no consideration for safety . All approved for the convenience and cost of the gas driller, Windsor Energy or maybe Encana . And besides outgassing and polluting the groundwater thereabouts ( I believe the well was fracked but not sure ) the well blew.

    Once everyone went into damage control mode, it became painfully obvious that Wyoming DEQ was complicit and not nearly as interested in mitigating the damage and threat to health and safety of the landowners as it was in covering it’s own duff and doing what it could to mitigate the legal and financial harm to the industrial operator. That company eventually either went broke or abandoned the site, or both. The State was not helpful. Had it been federally regulated from the outset , we might be telling a different tale altogether. As is, that well fouled the valley and affected every resident up there on Line Creek for miles.

    Oh by the way , that drill site was subleased on a section of State land previously used exclusively for grazing , from which a whole gaggle of other sordid tales can be told. I’m sorry to have tor eport that Wyoming regulations and regulators are too often incompetent and cozy to leaseholders/industry than their federal counterparts. In nearly every case that I am aware of. So giving more authority to the State by taking it away from the Feds seems like a really bad idea to me if you live across the fence from development on so-called public lands. QED.

  3. More proof that our delegation work for out of state corporate interests and not the people of Wyoming. A major flaw here: even if Wyoming had the resources and will to take this on, how will the interests of the people in the other 49 states, for whom the land is held in trust, have input into management if these lands are managed by Wyoming?

  4. I guess Wyoming will only quit drilling, fracking once they have destroyed the entire state. Barrasso, Enzi, Cheney? They don’t truly care about WY and it’s people or they’d be switching to renewables. I sometimes think they Did know all along what they were doing to climate so they could get to cold places easier and are happy to continue. Even if climate isn’t what you believe, even though backed by major science, the pollution all over the atmosphere should be something we want cleaned up.