Energy & Environment

Interior weighs fee hike for upcoming public lands drilling auctions

The Interior Department is apparently considering increasing the fees that companies pay to drill for oil and gas on public lands by 50 percent. 

News outlets including Reuters spotted a webpage on the Bureau of Land Management’s website which said that rates for leases offered this quarter would increase to 18.75 percent. 

The current minimum royalty rate set by law is 12.5 percent.

Reuters reported that the post has since been removed. 

Interior spokesperson Melissa Schwartz confirmed to The Hill that the Bureau, which is overseen by Interior, “accidentally posted some pre-decisional draft language on their website.”

This is not the first time the department has indicated a desire to increase the amount that companies pay to drill on federal lands. 

Interior Secretary Deb Haaland has long said that taxpayers aren’t getting a “fair return” on public lands drilling.

In a November report, the department recommended increased fees for drilling on public lands, saying that it should increase not only royalties but also other fees like minimum bids that companies can make. 

It cited a 2017 Government Accountability Office report which found that raising royalty rates could “decrease production on federal lands by a small amount or not at all but could increase overall federal revenue,’” it said. 

Royalties paid for public lands drilling are shared between the federal government and state governments. 

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