Dodd, Durbin, Menendez Work To Combat High Gas Prices

Dodd, Durbin, Menendez Work To Combat High Gas Prices

Introduce Bill to Penalize Oil Companies for Failing to Utilize Available Energy Resources

Washington - Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), with Senators Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Bob Menendez (D-NJ), last week introduced legislation that will help lower gas prices by compelling big oil companies to begin utilizing the 68 million acres that they lease but thus far have not used to produce energy. Representatives Edward Markey, Maurice Hinchey, Rahm Emanuel, and Nick Rahall announced companion legislation in the House of Representatives earlier this past week.

"With 68 million acres already leased and unexplored, it is simply stunning that the oil and gas companies come hat in hand to the Congress, asking for tax breaks and preferential treatment to open new federal lands, such as the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, to drilling," said Dodd, "Instead of padding the coffers of oil executives while American families struggle with ever-rising gas prices, the time has come for Congress to tell these companies they can either 'use it or lose it' when it comes to these leases."

"Sixty eight million acres of federal land leased by oil and gas companies are not being used for the production of oil and gas. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge only has 1.5 million acres of land," said Durbin. "If companies are going to lease this land and not use it, the cost of the annual lease should keep going up. Before we open up one of our greatest treasures to drilling, let someone who will utilize the land lease it. I think that is reasonable."

Senator Menendez said: "As we are moving to develop renewable energy, create alternative fuels and boost energy efficiency, we want to push oil companies to do all they can to produce domestic oil and natural gas. But Republicans want to lavish Big Oil with subsidies in a time of record breaking profits, while Democrats want to spur them into action. Oil companies are sitting on 68 million acres they have already leased from the American people for the purpose of oil and natural gas production. It is about time they use these resources already at their disposal instead of waiting for more federal hand outs and pushing to drill in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge or up and down our coasts."

The vast majority of oil and natural gas resources on federal land is already open for drilling and not being tapped. Currently, oil companies are not producing oil or gas on 68 million of the more than 91 million acres of federal land under their control. This is in comparison with just 1.5 million acres in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that some would like to see opened for drilling. Offshore, these companies are producing on only about 20 percent of the acres they hold, while onshore, they are producing on less than 30 percent of the acres held. Estimates indicate that these unused areas could produce an additional 4.8 million barrels of oil and 44.7 billion cubic feet of natural gas each day, nearly double current domestic oil production.

The Responsible Ownership of Public Land Act would charge oil companies a fee for every acre of land they lease but do not use for production. This fee will escalate if the land remains unused over a period of several years. The revenue from these fees would be devoted to the development of wind and solar energy, energy efficient buildings, advanced electric vehicles, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).