The Ministry of the Interior is taking steps to reform the oil and gas program -

The Ministry of the Interior is taking steps to reform the oil and gas program

On Thursday, the Biden administration took a first step toward reform and “updateFederal oil and gas leasing program.

The Home Office’s proposed regulation, which is now open for public comment, would significantly increase the amount of that Energy companies must pay for rent and drilling on federal lands. It also gives the Bureau of Land Management greater authority to keep fossil fuel development away from sensitive ecosystems and cultural sites.

The new rule “provides a fair return to taxpayers, adequately considers environmental damage and discourages speculation by oil and gas companies,” Laura Danielle Davis, deputy assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior for Lands and Minerals, said in a statement.

“The department is committed to creating a more transparent, inclusive, and fair approach to leases and permits that serve the public interest while protecting the natural and cultural resources on our public lands,” said Daniel Davies.

The proposal would codify several provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act, the climate law that President Joe Biden signed into law and that Democrats passed last year. This bill raised the royalties companies pay to the US government for oil and gas extracted from public lands, bringing them from a stagnant 12.5% ​​to 16.67%. It also raised the minimum bid for federal parcel leases from $2 to $10 per acre.

The new proposal would also increase the minimum rental bond to $150,000 — a 15-fold increase from the current minimum of $10,000, which has been in place since 1960. The Interior Department said in a statement that the existing bond requirements They no longer provide “a proper incentive for companies to meet their reclamation obligations,” and they increase the risk that “taxpayers will end up covering the cost of reclamation wells if the operator refuses to do so or declares bankruptcy.”

Oil and gas wells dot the federal lands near De Peak, Colorado.
Oil and gas wells dot the federal lands near De Peak, Colorado.

Helen H. Richardson via Getty Images

The action received mixed reactions from environmentalists.

“For too long, federal public land policies have prioritized the profits of fossil fuel companies over the well-being of communities and the public lands themselves,” Wildlife Society president Jimmy Williams said in a statement. “The proposed oil and gas base is an important step toward BLM taking a more holistic approach to conservation, climate, and community management of public lands.”

But some have become increasingly frustrated with the Biden administration’s energy agenda, accusing the president of breaking campaign promises to “take over the fossil fuel industry” and quickly shifting the nation away from planet-warming fossil fuels.

Friends of the Earth on Thursday blasted Thursday’s proposal as “the latest in a long line of failures by the administration to deliver on President Biden’s promise to address the climate impacts of oil and gas drilling on public lands.”

“Even with record heat waves battering the country and floods ravaging eastern states, the Biden administration continues to do business with Big Oil,” Nicole Gio, senior director of the group’s fossil fuels program, said in a statement. “President Biden cannot be a climate leader unless he addresses the root cause of the climate crisis: fossil fuels. Turning a blind eye to his broken lease program proves yet again that Biden is content to mess around while the world burns.”

Earlier this year, the BLM made a separate proposal to put the conservation “on a par” with traditional uses such as energy development, mining, and ranching. A key provision of this rule would give the agency — which oversees 10% of all land in the United States — the authority to issue “conservation leases” to promote land protection and ecosystem restoration.