House Dems want higher oil, gas lease rates on federal land

House Democrats are pushing the Interior Department’s new leader for land management to prioritize increasing royalty rates for oil and gas development on federal land.

A series of Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports has recommended raising the 12.5 percent royalty rate, but a December report found that the effort had stalled.

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In their Thursday letter, 43 Democrats took the opportunity of Janice Schneider’s May Senate confirmation as Interior’s assistant secretary for lands and minerals management to bring up the issue.

“Appropriate rental and royalty rates for onshore oil and gas leases help ensure that states, the U.S. Treasury and all American taxpayers receive their fair share from the nation’s oil and gas boom,” the lawmakers wrote to Schneider.

They said new royalty rates are “long overdue,” citing a 2007 GAO recommendation. That report concluded that the United States “receives one of the lowest government takes” for energy leases in the world.

Interior started considering new rates in 2009, but five years later, the agency has not proposed changes. It has not even published an “advanced notice of proposed rulemaking” to simply gather input on the subject.

“We believe you have a tremendous opportunity to make sure that reforming the onshore oil and gas fiscal system gets the attention that it deserves,” the Democrats said.

They called for Schneider to issue the advanced notice to gather input by the end of August. If not, they want a time frame detailing what must be done in the process.