Rep. Lauren Boebert

Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) walks through the U.S. Capitol on December 2, 2021 in Washington, D.C.

(Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Republicans Advance Boebert Plan Forcing Taxpayers to Foot Bill for Big Oil's Mess

"The oil and gas industry could stick taxpayers with a massive bill of between $2.9 billion and $17.7 billion," warned Public Citizen's Alan Zibel.

Fossil fuel industry-funded Republicans on the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee voted Wednesday to advance Rep. Lauren Boebert's bill that would saddle taxpayers with the massive cost of cleaning up oil and gas wells on federal lands.

"Corporations awarded a lease to drill on federal land must post a bond. If the leasing corporation abandons an exploration site, goes bankrupt, or fails to plug a well securely, the posted bond covers the cost of doing so," Public Citizen explained this week in a statement opposing the proposal.

The Colorado Republican's Restoring American Energy Dominance Act (H.R. 6009) would block a proposed rule from the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) revising federal regulations "to update the fees, rents, royalties, and bonding requirements related to oil and gas leasing, development, and production" in line with the Inflation Reduction Act signed by President Joe Biden last year.

"Rep. Boebert is plainly on the side of the oil and gas companies that don't want to be held accountable for exploiting hardworking taxpayers."

Based on a BLM review of the costs to plug orphaned wells, the rule—strongly opposed by polluting oil and gas companies—would raise the minimum lease bond amount to $150,000 and the minimum statewide bond to $500,000. It would also end the use of nationwide bonds.

"Without these crucial protections, the oil and gas industry could stick taxpayers with a massive bill of between $2.9 billion and $17.7 billion," Public Citizen's Alan Zibel warned in a report published Tuesday in anticipation of the House committee vote.

"We already allow far too much climate-destroying fossil fuel drilling on public lands in Western states," Zibel added in a statement Wednesday. "The least we can do is ensure taxpayers don't get stuck subsidizing the fossil fuel industry's cost of doing business."

"Even as U.S. fossil fuel production soars to record levels," he said, "Republicans are doing the bidding of fossil fuel lobbyists by trying to block modest, sensible efforts to reduce blatant, long-standing giveaways in the system for leasing public lands for oil and gas production."

In the leadup to the vote, Accountable.US highlighted that the "Big Oil-backed, far-right extremists" on the Republican-led committee have taken at least $3.8 million in campaign contributions from the oil and gas industry during their political careers.

Rep. Garret Graves (R-La.) leads the pack with $850,945, followed by committee Chair Bruce Westerman (R-Ark.) at $416,575, based on the group's analysis of OpenSecrets data. Boebert, who is only in her second term, ranks sixth, with $121,150.

"Rep. Boebert is plainly on the side of the oil and gas companies that don't want to be held accountable for exploiting hardworking taxpayers," Accountable.US spokesperson Chris Marshall said Wednesday. "The American public can't afford to suffer from this broken, polluting system any longer."

Thanks to the panel's party-line vote, H.R. 6009 now moves to the House floor. It faces far better odds of passing the GOP-controlled lower chamber than the divided Senate—but even if the bill got through Congress, Biden could veto it.

While Biden—who is seeking reelection next year—campaigned on being a "climate president," he has come under fire from campaigners and frontline communities for continuing fossil fuel lease sales for public lands and waters, greenlighting the Willow oil project and Mountain Valley Pipeline, and blowing off COP28, the ongoing United Nations climate summit taking place in Dubai.

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