A top Interior Department official is rebutting GOP allegations that the agency is throttling oil-and-gas development, calling the recent dip in oil production from federal lands the result of industry decisions, not a lack of permits or leases.

“Where the industry decides to produce or where they decide to develop is up to them,” Bureau of Land Management Director Robert Abbey told a Senate Appropriations subcommittee. “It’s a decision … that is being driven by the market.”

Abbey’s Wednesday comments continue an intense political thrust-and-parry between the Obama administration and Republicans over U.S. oil production increases that President Obama touts constantly.

Overall production has been steadily increasing, reversing declines that began in the mid-1980s, and federal Energy Information Administration (EIA) data show that it’s now at the highest level since 2003. But federal data show that production from federal lands and waters — the areas regulated by Interior — dipped in fiscal year 2011 after years of gains.

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