The Progressive


A project of Common Dreams

For Immediate Release

Karl Frisch, 202-580-5813

Statement on Department of Interior Resuming Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing

Today, following news from the Interior Department that it will resume onshore oil and gas lease sales, as required by a


Today, following news from the Interior Department that it will resume onshore oil and gas lease sales, as required by a federal court order, government watchdog Accountable.US released the following statement heralding the administration's decision to increase royalty rates on the new leased parcels to 18.75 percent, an improvement on the federal rate that has not changed in 100 years.

"Today's news clearly demonstrates the administration is listening to the American people," said Kyle Herrig, President at Accountable.US. "For too long, the oil and gas industry has refused to pay a fair price for drilling on leased public lands, cheating local public schools and other vital services out of potentially millions in additional funding while raking in billions in profits and keeping gas prices high. The Biden administration was right to modernize rates - we hope this is the first of many reforms to the antiquated public lands leasing program."

In February, Accountable.US released a report identifying the major oil and gas companies that benefited most from the outdated federal leasing program. Key findings included:

  • States Missing Out On Nearly $1.6 Billion: All told, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming could have seen as much as $1,582,079,612.91 in additional revenue in 2019 alone if the Biden administration had finally updated the U.S. public lands leasing program to charge wealthy oil and gas companies royalty rates in line with what states charge rather than the current federal rates that have not changed in 100 years.
  • Companies Pulling Billions Out of Western States: As the Accountable.US report notes, despite histories of severe environmental violations, dodging royalty payments, and sitting on unused public lands leases for years, big name oil giants like Exxon, EOG Resources, and ConocoPhillips have made billions of dollars in profits off their drilling activities in the west -- all while Americans are deprived of a fair return for allowing extraction on public lands.
  • Companies Benefiting Despite Harmful Histories: The report demonstrates that among the top 20 authorized leaseholders in the country are 12 companies with histories of deliberately shortchanging mineral rights owners -- including the public -- and 16 companies with records of serious environmental harm, including some of the worst methane polluters in the country.
  • Companies Fearmongering About Biden Policies: Despite several of these companies raking in billions in profits, they have continued to take advantage of the current program's outdated federal royalty rate while fear mongering about the Biden administration's conservation policies in hopes of continuing to avoid paying their fair share.
  • Low Federal Rates Unchanged for 100 Years: The 100-year-old royalty rate has long made federal oil and gas leasing a sweetheart deal for Big Oil at the expense of taxpayers. When oil and gas corporations drill on public lands, they compensate the American people with royalty payments, an important revenue that funds important state and local government services, especially public schools. The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 set the current public lands oil and gas royalty rate at 12.5 percent, a number that is substantially lower than what western states charge on state public lands.

Accountable.US is a nonpartisan watchdog that exposes corruption in public life and holds government officials and corporate special interests accountable by bringing their influence and misconduct to light. In doing so, we make way for policies that advance the interests of all Americans, not just the rich and powerful.