Energy and Natural Resources Committee
The Department of Interior Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management presides over the important and contentious issue of domestic energy policy. Due to the weight of this office I would like to voice my concern over the Administration's nominee for this position, Rebecca Watson. Ms. Watson's history of advocating for industry makes it unlikely that she will aggressively fight for the public interest.
The Project On Government Oversight (POGO) has worked strenuously to protect American taxpayers from oil and gas company fraud. As a result of our efforts, the U.S. Treasury now collects $67 million more per year in oil royalties and has recovered $440 million from past royalty underpayments. Without the support of the new Assistant Secretary, the oil and gas industry will succeed in their attempts to roll back these reforms.
The industry's latest strategy in regaining their ability to rip-off the American taxpayers is to pressure the Department of Interior to institute a nation-wide royalty-in-kind (RIK) program. Independent analysis of the RIK pilot program projects an annual loss of $3 million for Wyoming alone. It is imperative that the new Assistant Secretary be willing and able to fend off these industry attacks.
Although Ms. Watson does not have experience dealing with oil royalties, her record on other issues causes our organization concern. As you consider Ms. Watson's nomination for Assistant Secretary for Land and Minerals Management we urge you not to just rubber stamp this nomination but to consider her record and qualifications in protecting taxpayer assets.