Royalty Policy Committee Meeting Shows Department of the Interior’s Interest in Oil Companies, Not Americans

Feb. 28, 2018

Royalty Policy Committee Meeting Shows Department of the Interior’s Interest in Oil Companies, Not Americans

Statement of Stephanie Thomas, Researcher and Organizer, Public Citizen’s Texas Office

Note: Today U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) are meeting with energy industry officials in Houston as part of the Royalty Policy Committee, which Zinke created to “ensure the public receives the full value of the natural resources produced from federal land.” Thomas will deliver public comments during the meeting today at 3:15 pm CST at the Hyatt Regency North Houston, 425 North Sam Houston Pkwy E, Houston, Texas 77060.

Arctic temperatures are soaring and sea ice is plunging to record lows, but in Houston you don’t have to go outside Beltway 8 to see the effects of climate change. Hurricane Harvey devastated my community, killed 88 people and caused $125 billion in damages. Scientists have shown that Harvey’s strength was fueled by climate change.

Climate change cost Americans $306 billion in 2017 alone. The time to transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy is now, but the Interior’s policies are preventing serious action on climate change. Zinke’s proposal to gut the U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) methane waste rule would lead to climate damage equivalent to 8.3 million cars driven for 10 years.

Controlling methane waste from oil and gas operations on federal land is one of the best ways to address climate change. Reducing waste would improve public health by reducing dangerous toxins like benzene and smog-forming pollutants that can trigger asthma and other respiratory conditions. Furthermore, cutting methane emissions would benefit taxpayers by reducing wasted releases of natural gas that would otherwise be subject to royalty payments. Gutting the BLM methane waste rule harms families and taxpayers.

Zinke’s five-year drilling plan opens up offshore acreage to oil and gas drilling in the Arctic, which would impact sensitive marine ecosystems, tourism and commercial fishing. In Texas, the rule could impact tourism, recreation, fishing, shrimping and the protection of Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary. Zinke’s DOI is also considering a rollback of several post-Deepwater Horizon safety protections, despite concerns about the safety of blowout preventers. In fact, Zinke stopped a National Academy of Sciences study to enhance drilling safety on offshore platforms. This decision puts oilfield workers and the environment at risk.

Zinke is taking the value of America’s natural resources from the American people and giving it to the oil and gas industry instead. Zinke has proposed to slash the federal royalty rate that oil companies pay to taxpayers for deepwater drilling operations from 18.75 percent to 12.5 percent. That recommendation from a Royalty Policy Committee subcommittee follows the Trump administration’s move to allow offshore drilling off U.S. coastal waters. Oil companies are happy to pay less to extract fossil fuels from federal lands, but the American people will pay dearly.

###