Citing more than 4,600 oil and gas permits he says are languishing under the purview of the Interior Department, Rep. Blake Moore, R-Utah, introduced legislation Wednesday to hold the agency accountable.

“Let’s get back to 2019 when we were a net exporter. We do it better. We do it more (cleanly) and we do it safer. We do it with better labor standards. Let’s embrace that,” he told the Deseret News. “What this bill does is highlight the delay tactics that are going on.”

Moore, who represents the oil and gas producing region of eastern Utah that includes Duchesne and Uintah counties, said the Biden administration points to undeveloped leases held by producers to counter that opportunities to develop remain.

But he said those leases depend on permits before any activity can take place, and permitting is subject to an array of regulatory hurdles.

“They’re still not being given the green light to go and do it, and this is not a new process. We’ve been, you know, exploring and been producing energy in the United States for many years,” he said. “There is so much regulation on what is a dire need and particularly now where people are recognizing we need to focus on energy production and energy independence.”

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The Protecting Energy Independence and Transparency Act would amend the federal Mineral Leasing Act to:

  • Require the agency to issue any pending permits that have successfully completed environmental analysis and other required reviews within 30 days of enactment.
  • Require the agency to submit a detailed report to Congress on the status of nominated parcels for future lease sales, the number of permits that are pending approval, how long these items have been pending and the reason these items have been delayed.
  • Require the agency to publish the number of pending and approved permits, and expressions of interest for parcel nominations for lease sales.

Moore said the same delays are being used to hold up the progress of the Uinta Basin Railway Project proposed by the Seven County Infrastructure Coalition. The 85-mile railway line would begin in South Myton, Duchesne County, and connect to the interstate rail system, transporting crude oil and other products out of the basin.

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The project was approved late last year, but Moore complained about additional hurdles. It is also the target of a lawsuit.

“They continue to find some additional snippet that we need to work through,” he said.

Moore is the latest among members of Congress reacting to the global energy crisis via legislation or other measures.

Sen. Bill Cassidy, R-La., is pushing his Energy Operation Warp Speed to accelerate domestic energy production by streamlining the permitting process for production and import projects. It involves a four-pronged approach to revamp federal agency policies.

The Russian invasion of Ukraine over a month ago also spurred multiple bills on banning Russian oil, and ultimately the president acted to invoke the prohibition of crude oil and coal from that country.

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Moore said it makes little sense to rely on foreign oil when it can be domestically produced.

“Way too much of what goes on back here, in Washington, is political. This is one of those prime examples.”

Correction: A previous version of this story indicated the federal government was still reviewing the railway proposal in eastern Utah. It was approved late last year.