Chair Grijalva Disappointed That Interior Will Hold New Fossil Fuel Lease Sales, Announces He Will Pursue Industry Reforms in Reconciliation

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) today said he’s disappointed that the Department of the Interior (DOI) is holding a newly announced round of onshore and offshore oil and gas lease sales, especially as the country awaits a Biden administration interim report on how it will fix a broken federal public lands and waters leasing system.

Grijalva said that while he eagerly awaits the administration’s interim report on leasing reforms, he will push to use the forthcoming budget reconciliation process to raise federal royalty rates; to establish fees on climate-damaging emissions from public lands and waters; to reform oil and gas bonding standards; and to increase the unreasonably low federal fees for participating in fossil fuel lease sales, among other reforms.

The administration is holding the new lease sales pursuant to a June ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana, which was based in part on an industry-funded study whose findings Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.) had already demonstrated were without merit. Grijalva said DOI is right to appeal that ruling, and he reiterated today that Secretary Deb Haaland has the authority to pause leasing while DOI conducts a comprehensive review of the federal oil and gas program.

“Holding more lease sales under today’s outdated standards is economically wasteful and environmentally destructive, and everyone not sitting in a fossil fuel boardroom knows it,” Grijalva said today. “If new lease sales are going to occur, the country should be able to benefit from the reforms the administration has been studying since it rightly announced its leasing pause earlier this year. Those reforms coupled with the reconciliation package offer our country a chance to modernize the economics of our country’s energy supply for the long haul. My colleagues and I are working to raise billions of dollars for the American people and protect taxpayers, local communities, and our climate from the excesses of the fossil fuel industry, and I’m looking forward to getting some wins in reconciliation along these lines.”

Grijalva pointed to a collection of measures the House Natural Resources Committee has already passed this year that would implement many of the reforms he will seek in reconciliation.

Oil and gas drilling on America’s public lands and waters is a major source of carbon emissions, and the pollution from extraction and development harms local communities, wildlife habitats and entire ecosystems. Public lands and waters managed by DOI are annually responsible for nearly a quarter of America’s carbon emissions. Federal lands produced roughly 13 percent of U.S. natural gas and 23 percent of U.S. crude oil in 2019.

Because of already excessive oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters, companies are currently sitting on millions of acres of non-producing oil or gas leases. If DOI goes forward with more new leasing, major reforms need to be made to the federal oil and gas program. Outdated federal laws and policies have led to the U.S. government effectively subsidizing oil and gas companies that operate on America’s public lands and waters by providing easy access, charging limited royalties and fees, and allowing them to pollute local air and water sources. This is environmentally unsustainable, and taxpayers are screwed every day Congress waits to approve overdue reforms.

Since 2007, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has published more than 20 reports documenting the deficiencies with DOI’s management of federal oil and gas resources, including a recent report highlighting public revenue loss through noncompetitive leasing. DOI’s management of oil and gas leasing is on the watchdog’s High Risk List of programs that are not being managed for sufficient public benefit.

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