The U.S. Bureau of Land Management last week announced it was making 700,000 acres of land in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming available for research and development of oil shale and 130,000 acres in Utah open to tar sands research.
Advances in technology used to exploit unconventional plays like those have positioned North America as a world leader in oil and natural gas reserves.
U.S. Rep. Ed Whitfield, R-Ky., chairman of the House Energy and Power Subcommittee, said the BLM's measure blocks millions of acres of land from leasing.
"This proposal will place further limitations on the exploration and development of our country's natural resources and is yet another example of how this administration continues to stand in the way of North American energy independence," he said in a statement.
The BLM said research and development leases were doled out first to ensure those granted access meet federal regulations. The agency explained there wasn't any development of oil sands in the United States on the commercial scale.
"While other countries like Canada are busy growing their economy by developing their own resources, this administration is busy promoting policies that embargo our own oil from ourselves," said Whitfield.