Top public lands producers decline U.S. House committee hearing on oil prices

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FILE PHOTO: The sun is seen behind a crude oil pump jack in the Permian Basin in Loving County

By Liz Hampton, Valerie Volcovici and Timothy Gardner

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

Devon Energy Corp, EOG Resources Inc and Occidental Petroleum Corp have declined to attend an April 5 hearing, according to Rep. Raul Grijalva, a Democrat from Arizona who chairs the Natural Resources Committee and has been critical of the industry.

The three companies combined hold some 4,000 leases that cover roughly 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 lower gasoline prices, which hit record levels this year following Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.

The hearing was to ask why the companies have not done more to halt the rise in oil and gas prices, despite record profits, Grijalva said.

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

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

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

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

Pioneer Natural Resources, BP, Shell, Exxon Mobil and Chevron are set to attend that April 6 hearing. BP confirmed it would attend virtually, while others did not respond to a request for comment.

The Natural Resources Committee was not sure if it would subpoena the companies. “We’re doing our due legal diligence before we make any further decisions,” Grijalva said.

(Reporting by Liz Hampton in Denver, Valerie Volcovici and Timothy Gardner Washington, and Sabrina Valle in Houston; editing by Richard Pullin)