Drilling and Mining on Public Lands: The State of Play
As this presidential administration comes to an end, the Project On Government Oversight (POGO) and Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) review the top five natural resource reforms from the past eight years that benefited American taxpayers and improved transparency in the federal government. We also look ahead to the top five necessary reforms for this and the next administration to tackle in the coming months and years.
Top Five Natural Resource Reforms
In 2016, the Interior Department significantly overhauled the way it determines how much money taxpayers get from federal oil, gas, and coal. POGO, TCS, and other experts long maintained that the old regulations, written in 1989, had a loophole allowing companies to cheat taxpayers. In short, a company could sell its coal for cheap to a subsidiary, pay royalties to the federal government based on that low price, and then sell the coal to an unaffiliated company for a huge profit not subject to royalty payments. The new regulations finally closed a loophole that likely cost taxpayers billions of dollars.
Top Five Reforms That Still Need to be Completed
When companies extract oil and gas from federal lands, they lose millions of dollars in potential federal royalties every year from venting and flaring (burning) natural gas, as well as from unintentional gas leaks. Companies pay no royalties on these lost resources, and there is no centralized location where taxpayers can find data on how much natural gas is lost. Given these are public resources, the Bureau of Land Management should take steps to minimize venting and flaring. The BLM also should set up an online database allowing the public to view monthly aggregated data on lost natural gas.
Autumn Hanna of Taxpayers for Common Sense contributed to this article.