Statement by Sharon Buccino, NRDC Senior Attorney

WASHINGTON (January 3, 2005) -- A diverse group of companies and environmental organizations today sent a letter to Congress, urging federal policy action to address high natural gas prices by increasing energy efficiency and conservation programs. (The letter is available here.)

The following is a statement by Sharon Buccino, Senior Attorney at the Natural Resources Defense Council:

"Our economy, our health and our quality of life depend on America adopting a sound national energy policy. For the sake of consumers and businesses, affordable natural gas must be a crucial component of that policy. We are pleased to join companies and other conservation groups in this effort to persuade our government leaders to pursue a responsible national energy policy that boosts natural gas supplies while protecting the environment.

"The best way to protect Americans -- whether at home or in their jobs -- from high natural gas prices is to waste less natural gas. The most cost-effective and quickest path to lowering gas prices is through energy efficiency and conservation. Moreover, renewable energy, such as wind and solar power, can provide a critical supplement to natural gas supplies.

"Without a doubt, access to natural gas reserves on public lands offshore and onshore is not the problem. Government estimates tell us that 88 percent of the technically recoverable gas resources on federal lands in the five major Western basins are currently open to exploration and development. Similarly, 80 percent of the natural gas on the federal Outer Continental Shelf is available to the industry, according to the federal Minerals Management Service, which administers the OCS program. In fact, the Bush Administration has issued a record number of onshore drilling permits on federal land. Many remain undeveloped. Consider the fact that the Bureau of Land Management issued 6,130 drilling permits this past year, yet energy companies drilled only 2,702 wells.

"Americans want increased supplies of gas from domestic supplies, but they want it done in an environmentally sensitive way, which requires more effective government control and oversight and meaningful public participation.

"There is no reason to scuttle federal safeguards for America's water, air and wildlife in the name of increased drilling. Nor run roughshod over the ranchers and farmers trying to make a living off the land.

"Nor must we allow every last acre of our country's natural heritage to be developed, forever marring magnificent landscapes treasured by all Americans. NRDC strongly opposes opening currently protected or other sensitive public lands onshore and offshore to oil and gas development."

For more information, read NRDC's 2004 analysis identifying actions the federal government can take to address natural gas prices.