The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Brett Hartl

House Bill Would Sacrifice Public Lands to Draw From Strategic Petroleum Reserve

Millions of Acres Would Be Leased to Oil Industry, Causing Massive Climate Pollution

House Republicans will today likely pass H.R. 21, the Strategic Production Response Act, which would sacrifice millions of acres of public lands. The legislation by Rep. McMorris Rodgers (R-Wash.) would prevent the White House from using the Strategic Petroleum Reserve unless the percentage of public lands and offshore waters leased for oil and gas increases by the same percentage as any future drawdown from the reserve.

“This nonsensical bill shows that the House Republicans’ climate-killing, anti-public lands agenda is more extreme than ever,” said Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity. “Sacrificing millions more acres of public lands for oil and gas leasing shows just how beholden the Republican majority is to its special interest benefactors.”

Based on the Department of the Interior’s own data, approximately 36.5 million acres of public lands (24.9 million onshore and 11.6 million offshore) are currently leased for oil and gas production. These leases produced approximately 923 million barrels of oil in FY 2021 alone.

Under the legislation, if there were a draw down from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which currently sits at 398 million barrels of oil, by 10% or roughly 40 million barrels of oil, the number of acres leased from public lands and oceans would also increase by 10% or roughly 3.6 million acres under lease to the oil and gas industry (approximately 2.4 million acres onshore and 1.2 million acres offshore).

Assuming a similar amount of oil wells are found on areas of public lands under lease, 2.4 million acres of onshore leases would likely result in more than 8,000 additional oil wells on just public lands alone. With an estimated ultimate recovery of 100,000 barrels of oil per well, this would result in more than 800 million barrels in new onshore production over the lifespan, which is larger than Strategic Petroleum Reserve itself. Such new onshore production would cause more than 517 million metric tons of greenhouse gas pollution.

Even assuming the legislation’s premise was rational, it would only take 400 new onshore wells to offset a one-time, 10% draw down from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

“If it’s a day that ends with a Y, then the Republican plan is to destroy our public lands and pour napalm on the climate emergency,” said Hartl. “It’s tragic, but not unexpected, that the next two years will be marked by these nonserious shenanigans.”

At the Center for Biological Diversity, we believe that the welfare of human beings is deeply linked to nature — to the existence in our world of a vast diversity of wild animals and plants. Because diversity has intrinsic value, and because its loss impoverishes society, we work to secure a future for all species, great and small, hovering on the brink of extinction. We do so through science, law and creative media, with a focus on protecting the lands, waters and climate that species need to survive.

(520) 623-5252