An analysis by the Associated Press has found that a dozen big oil companies—several with White House ties—control more acreage of federal oil and gas leases than they are allowed by law.
A 1920 federal law prohibits any private entity from holding more than 246,080 acres in lease holdings on public lands in states other than Alaska. According to the AP, six large companies now exceed that limit.
Federal records show that the Department of Interior approved the acquisition of additional lease holdings by some of these companies in Wyoming over the last several years, knowing they were over legal limits.
Interior contends that it was offering the companies extensions on compliance, not merely looking the other way. “We try to work with them instead of hitting them with a hammer,” said Bob Bennett of the Interior Department.
“The lax enforcement coincides with the Bush administration’s push to open new public lands for oil and gas development,” reports David Pace, who conducted the research for the AP. “In March, bureau records showed 40 million acres of federal lands were under lease in the continental United States. That is 5.3 million more acres than when President Bush took office.”
Pace goes on to detail ties between current administration officials (including Vice President Cheney and Commerce Secretary Evans) and a handful of companies which have dominated federal oil and gas leasing for decades. Perhaps not coincidentally, these companies have also been some of President Bush"s largest campaigns supporters to date.