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President Barack Obama meets with newly-elected mayors about job creation in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, Dec. 13, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Reed) President Barack Obama meets with newly-elected mayors about job creation in the Roosevelt Room at the White House in Washington, Dec. 13, 2013. (REUTERS/Jason Reed)  

Report: Obama holding federal lands hostage

The Obama administration is holding back the economy by keeping federal lands off limits to oil and gas production in the midst of an energy boom, according to a new study.

U.S. federal lands and water hold about 43 percent of all domestic oil reserves and 72 percent of oil shale acreage, according to the conservative American Action Forum (AAF). But the Obama administration has held back energy production on federal lands through long permitting times and keeping more land off-limits to oil and gas drilling.

“There is no disputing the fact that our nation’s domestic energy production on federal lands has been stymied by this administration, and is trending in the exact opposite direction of the rapid growth we’re seeing on private and state lands,” said Louisiana Republican Sen. David Vitter in a statement to The Daily Caller News Foundation.

“The administration adheres to a far-left environmentalist agenda; they continue to limit access to federal land and suffocate our domestic energy producers with red tape at the expense of increasing government revenues and the creation of American jobs,” Vitter added.

The latest federal data on permitting times for oil and gas drilling actually shows some improvement. In 2012, the average permitting time was 228 days, down from 307 days in 2011. However, federal permitting can still take up to 30 times longer than state level permitting — the largest oil and gas producing states have approval times ranging from 10 days to four weeks.

Since the energy boom began in 2008, oil and gas companies have nominating more federal acres to be put up for a lease sale, but the federal government has been reducing the amount of land they put up for auction. According to AAF, “the number of new acres opened to leasing has increased just 30 percent; since the oil boom began in 2008, the number of leased acres each year has actually declined by a third.”

The Obama administration has come under intense criticism from Republicans for not opening up more lands to drilling during an energy boom.

“In recent years, we have seen a boom in energy jobs and economic growth on state and private lands. I believe the only reason we haven’t seen that same dynamic growth on federal lands is because of excess regulations,” said Colorado Republican Rep. Doug Lamborn.

Obama, however, has promoted energy development on federal lands — renewable energy. Since 2010, the Interior Department has approved 25 utility-scale solar projects and has authorized 39 wind energy development projects, along with other renewable energy projects.

The administration suffered embarrassment earlier this year when no companies bid on three land parcels covering 3,700 acres offered up for solar development. Officials said five solar companies were interested in the land, but no one submitted any sealed bids or even bothered to show up to the auction at the Bureau of Land Management’s Colorado headquarters.

The U.S. is projected to become the world’s top oil and gas producer by 2015, outpacing Russia and Saudi Arabia. AAF argues that speeding up the permitting process and opening up more federal lands to drilling would strengthen the U.S.’s position as the world’s top energy producer and increase the country’s energy independence.

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