Secretary Zinke’s Royalty Policy Committee Meets for the First Time

No taxpayer advocateSecretary Zinke’s Royalty Policy Committee Meets for the First Time

Energy & Natural Resources  | Quick Takes
Oct 19, 2017  | 3 min read

On Wednesday, October 4, 2017 the Department of the Interior’s (DOI’s) newly reestablished Royalty Policy Committee (RPC) met for the first time in the new administration at DOI’s headquarters in Washington, D.C.

Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke reestablished the committee in order to advise DOI and its agencies on current royalty and leasing rules and regulations. The RPC charter states the core object of the committee as providing advice “on the fair market value of and on the collection of revenues derived from, the development of energy and mineral resources on Federal and Indian lands.” The DOI leases federally owned land to private entities for energy production purposes and is responsible for collecting lease and royalty payments in exchange for use of that land.

The RPC meeting brought together industry, tribal, academic, and public interest stakeholders. Noticeably absent from the committee’s membership is a taxpayer advocate, leaving taxpayers skeptical of the efficacy of the committee in ensuring a fair return on energy resources produced on the federal lands we all own.

The topics of discussion during the RPC’s first meeting mainly centered on bringing its members up to speed on the functions and current practices of DOI and its agencies. Federal representatives of the various DOI agencies provided overviews of their agencies’ roles in leasing, royalty collection, and enforcement. These included: the Office of Natural Resource Revenue, the Bureau of Land Management, the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, and the Office of Policy Analysis. Members of the RPC decided upon three subcommittees to serve as focus groups, which will make recommendations to the committee at large on specific issues: the Subcommittee on Fair Return and Revenue; the Subcommittee on Planning, Analysis, and Competitiveness; and a Subcommittee focused on tribal energy issues.

Agency officials highlighted the RPC’s role in making recommendations for reform to current policy. But recent actions by DOI cast doubt on its willingness to listen to RPC findings that would conflict with its “energy dominance” agenda. Despite the establishment of the committee being announced in March of this year, DOI has moved forward with the repeal of two rulemakings, an oil and gas valuation rule, and a methane waste rule that fall directly under the RPC’s purview without allowing the committee to first weigh in.

Taxpayers for Common Sense was present at the first meeting of the RPC. TCS President Ryan Alexander was on hand to provide remarks during the meeting’s public comment period.

The RPC’s next meeting is scheduled for February 2018 in Houston, Texas.