Top public land producers refuse U.S. House Committee hearing on oil prices By Reuters

© Reuters. FILE PHOTO: The sun is seen behind a crude oil pump jack in the Permian Basin in Loving County, Texas, U.S. November 22, 2019. Picture taken November 22, 2019. REUTERS/Angus Mordant/File Photo / File Photo

By Liz Hampton, Valerie Volcovici and Timothy Gardner

DENVER/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. oil companies that produce the most on federal lands and waters are not planning to attend a congressional hearing next week to investigate soaring energy prices, officials said. officials on Tuesday, although several oil companies plan to attend another price hearing.

Devon Energy Corp (NYSE:), EOG Resources Inc (NYSE:) and Occidental Petroleum Corp (NYSE:) declined to attend an April 5 hearing, according to Rep. Raul Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who chairs the Committee on natural resources and has been a critic of the industry.

The three companies together hold some 4,000 leases that cover about 1.5 million acres (607,000 hectares) of public land and more than 2,800 unused drilling permits, Grijalva said in a statement.

The Biden administration has called on energy companies to increase production in a bid to bring down gasoline prices, which hit record highs this year after Moscow invaded Ukraine.

The hearing was aimed at asking why companies haven’t done more to halt rising oil and gas prices, despite record profits, Grijalva said.

As prices rose, he said companies had started pushing for “free drilling for all”, but it was clear their calls for looser regulations were just a push to boost profits.

EOG declined to comment, and Occidental did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Devon Energy said it plans to attend a separate hearing a day later which will cover some of the same issues. That hearing, before a subcommittee of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, will include more companies. EOG and Occidental were not called to testify at this hearing.

Earlier this month, Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone expressed concern that oil companies were keeping oil prices high to boost profits. He also questioned the more than 9,000 unused drilling permits held by oil and gas companies on federal lands.

Pioneer of natural resources (NYSE:), BP (NYSE:), Shell (LON:), Exxon Mobil (NYSE:) and Chevron (NYSE:) are scheduled to attend this April 6 hearing. BP confirmed it would participate virtually, while others did not respond to a request for comment.

The Natural Resources Committee was unsure whether it would subpoena the companies. “We are doing our due diligence before making any further decisions,” Grijalva said.

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Felix J. Dixon