Chair Grijalva Statement on Interior’s New Oil and Gas Lease Sale Reforms and Imminent Sale Notices

Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) issued the following statement on the U.S. Department of the Interior’s (DOI) announcement that it will institute new reforms for its onshore oil and gas leasing program. DOI also announced that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will resume onshore oil and gas lease sales, as mandated by court order, and will issue final sale notices on Monday, April 18. The amount of acreage BLM will offer for sale represents an 80 percent reduction from the amount proposed for sale in late 2021.

“I’m glad we finally have an administration that recognizes that the status quo for our oil and gas leasing program is a rip-off for the American people,” Chair Grijalva said. “If we’re going to let the fossil fuel industry pocket more of our public lands for drilling, we should at least make sure they’re paying a decent price to do it.

“And while I’m never a fan of handing over more public lands to Big Oil, I’m looking forward to seeing how oil and gas companies finally use this opportunity to lower prices at the pump, given all their claims that they needed more leases to do so.”

DOI’s newly announced reforms include an increase in the royalty rate for new onshore leases from 12.5 percent to 18.75 percent, a requirement to include tribal consultation and community input, and a reliance on the best available science, including impacts of leasing on carbon emissions. The minimum royalty rate has not been increased in over 100 years, depriving the American public of a fair return on taxpayer-owned resources for decades.

These reforms reflect legislative priorities of Natural Resources Committee Democrats, including H.R. 1503, Restoring Community Input and Public Protections in Oil and Gas Leasing Act introduced by Rep. Mike Levin (D-Calif.) and H.R. 1517, Ending Taxpayer Welfare for Oil and Gas Companies Act introduced by Rep. Katie Porter (D-Calif.). Both bills passed out of the Committee in May 2021. These reforms recognize that the leasing system has favored the fossil fuel industry for decades.

Under the Trump administration, BLM offered over 26 million acres of public land for oil and gas leasing and issued 6.1 million acres of new leases.

Currently, emissions from public lands and waters make up about a quarter of U.S. carbon emissions each year. For years, Chair Grijalva has championed oil and gas leasing program reforms as a small, but important way to help reduce U.S. emissions and combat one of the most significant contributors to the worsening climate crisis. As Chair Grijalva notes, these reforms are long overdue, but they are far from adequate, and further action must be taken to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from public lands.

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