Oil from federal lands tops 1B barrels as Trump eases rules

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FILE - This Jan. 16, 2015, file photo shows pumpjacks operating at the Kern River Oil Field in Bakersfield, Calif., which is overseen by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. Oil production from federally-managed lands and waters topped a record 1 billion barrels in 2019, according to the Department of Interior on Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File)

BILLINGS, Mont. – Oil production from U.S.- managed lands and waters topped a record 1 billion barrels last year, federal officials said Tuesday, as technological advances helped drive development in new areas and the Trump administration eases rules on the industry.

The production figure was up 122 million barrels, or more than 13% from 2018. It includes oil from onshore and offshore parcels and American Indian-owned lands managed by the U.S. Interior Department during fiscal year 2019, which ended Sept. 30, federal officials said.

Critics charge that the gains being made by energy companies come at the expense of the environment, with fewer safeguards to protect the land and wildlife from harm.

Acting Assistant Secretary of the Interior Casey Hammond told The Associated Press that breaking the billion-barrel threshold marks a major milestone in the Trump administration’s drive to increase domestic energy production.

“You have to create an environment where folks want to bid on leases and then go develop them,” Hammond said. “One thing we can do as regulators is give people some assurances we’re going to work through the process in a fair and efficient way.”

He said permits were being issued to companies more quickly without compromising the landscape and public waters.

The steep rise in production in recent years follows the advent of a drilling technique known as hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” which lets companies extract oil from underground reserves that were once considered out of reach.

Fracking spurred an industry boom during the Obama administration that has picked up speed under Trump.