WASHINGTON, June 27, 2013 /PRNewswire/ -- Energy development of federal lands and waters is robust and opportunities abound for oil and gas production as well as renewable energy projects, outgoing U.S. Department of the Interior Deputy Secretary David J. Hayes said at a Platts Energy Podium newsmaker event in Washington.
Hayes, who is leaving his post to teach at Stanford Law School in the fall, defended his department's efforts despite criticism from some in Congress that the Obama administration isn't moving fast enough to make more public lands available for energy development.
"It is incredibly frustrating how politicized this issue has become," Hayes said. "On the oil side, onshore, we've gone up by 35% in terms of oil being produced on our public lands."
Offshore, Hayes said that production in the Gulf of Mexico has recovered from the delays in the wake of the 2010 Deepwater Horizon explosion and oil spill and the subsequent increased federal safety standards. The number of rigs in the Gulf now exceeds pre-Macondo levels and companies are making major discoveries, he said."Today, the Gulf of Mexico is back," Hayes said. Hayes acknowledged that onshore natural gas production on public lands has decreased in recent years. The change is due to companies seeking major gas plays in shale formations, most of which are on private and state lands. Declining natural gas prices also have contributed to the decrease, Hayes said. On the renewables side, Hayes said the Interior Department since 2009 has approved 25 utility-scale solar facilities, nine major wind farms and 11 geothermal plants – more than 13,000 megawatts of renewable energy power approval. "We have done proof of concept that in this country we can have utility-scale renewable energy providing a major energy source to major population centers," Hayes said.