Last night, President Obama correctly pointed out that oil companies are currently holding oil drilling leases, but are not producing oil, and that these companies should be pushed to produce oil. House Democrats have been calling on oil companies to "Use It or Lose It" for several years, including twice on the House floor this year. Yet when those two votes came to the House floor this session of Congress, House Republicans voted to protect oil companies from relinquishing these leases.
--On May 12, 2011, House Republicans defeated a measure that would have required the Secretary of the Interior to reduce the number of idle offshore oil and gas leases by half. All but one House Republican voted to allow oil companies to keep the leases . (See House Roll Call 319, 05/12/2012 defeated 180-243)
--On June 21, 2012, House Republicans yet again voted down a measure to force oil companies to use the leases they have, or to lose them back into the bidding process so other companies can have the opportunity to drill. (See House Roll Call 397, 06/21/2012, defeated 164-256)
"Oil companies are holding billions of barrels of oil hostage, and then coming back and demanding even more public lands to drill. President Obama is right -- oil companies should use these leases or lose them to companies that will," said Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the top Democrat on the Natural Resources Committee, which has jurisdiction over drilling on public lands. "Instead of supporting the idea that oil companies should use it or lose it, House Republicans are telling Big Oil that they can just keep it."
Rep. Markey and Rep. Rush Holt (D-N.J.) introduced legislation in 2011 called "USE IT" (HR 927) to compel oil companies to produce on the drilling leases they already own, instead of continuing the practice by the oil and gas industry to "squat" on their leased lands without producing. House Republicans have failed to schedule action on this legislation.
A report released by the Department of Interior in May underscored the scope of the idle leases issue. The Interior Department report found that more than 70 percent of the tens of millions of offshore acres currently under lease are inactive, neither producing nor currently subject to approved or pending exploration or development plans. Out of nearly 36 million acres leased offshore, only about 10 million acres are active -- leaving nearly 72 percent of the offshore leased area idle, according to the report.