Drilling on public lands to unfortunately resume, but noteworthy reforms accompany announcement

Media Contacts

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of the Interior announced Friday that it would resume the previously paused federal onshore drilling program. However, Secretary Deb Halland announced the program will undergo significant reforms, including commitments to consulting with Tribal Nations and nearby communities for their input, a focus on climate science and the “first-ever increase in the royalty rate for new competitive leases to 18.75%.” The previous royalty rate of 12.5% had not changed since 1920.

In addition to increasing rates, the Department of the Interior is significantly decreasing the number of acres for lease for now — to much fewer than the acreage that energy companies proposed. According to the government’s news release, the Bureau of Land Management “began analyzing 646 parcels on roughly 733,000 acres that had been previously nominated for leasing … [T]he final sale notices will offer approximately 173 parcels on roughly 144,000 acres, an 80 percent reduction from the acreage originally nominated.” 

Statement by Steve Blackledge, Senior Director of Environment America’s Conservation Program:

“The U.S. needs to end drilling on public lands as soon as possible. Oil and gas drilling destroys critical habitats, pollutes our air and water and threatens our climate. With clean energy technology and energy efficiency measures lessening the need for fossil fuels, there’s no reason to continue this dangerous, dirty process.

“However, with increasingly loud demands from the American public for more oil, it’s understood that our elected officials feel compelled to temporarily increase oil production. Given the clamor, the restraint that the Biden administration has shown by reducing the drillable acreage is notable. In addition, kudos to the administration for increasing the royalty rate. That move is decades overdue and will help cover the true cost of spills and pollution that inevitably accompany drilling.

“Clearly, we need to do more to end our addiction to oil so that fluctuations in gas prices resulting from uncontrollable factors such as wars no longer affect our day-to-day lives. More importantly, we need to end oil drilling in order to protect our climate and the wildlife that are threatened by it.”

staff | TPIN

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