The Department of the Interior admitted to Congress on Thursday morning that it could process oil and natural gas drilling applications more efficiently than it does right now during a hearing on the administration’s management of federal property.

“There are opportunities for greater efficiencies,” Tommy Beaudreau, the acting assistant secretary of Land and Minerals Management for the Interior Department, told a subcommittee of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

The hearing focused on the Obama administration’s efforts to allow drilling for natural resources on federally owned land.

The federal government approved 7,124 permits for drilling on federal lands in 2007, with an average approval time of 196 days. However, the Obama administration approved only 4,256 in 2012, at an average time of 228 days, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R., Utah) said.

States can take under a month, and sometimes under two weeks, to issue a permit, multiple congressmen said.

Beaudreau argued after the hearing that states have different regulatory requirements and the Interior Department has to take multiple factors, including multiple uses of federal land, into account when issuing permits.

“That takes time,” Beaudreau said. “That takes public engagement. That takes analysis.”

Frustration about the federal permitting time led Rep. Blake Farenthold (R., Texas) to ask if the department was intentionally sitting on permits in order to delay drilling. Beaudreau assured him the department was not doing that.

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