In the NewsConservatives Call for Oil and Gas Reforms on Public Lands

This article by Eric Galatas first appeared in Public News Service on November 18, 2021

CHEYENNE, Wyo. — The Build Back Better Act making its way through Congress includes reforms for oil and gas production on public lands first introduced by the Reagan administration.

Dave Jenkins, president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, said the measure includes common-sense solutions for so-called orphan wells, sites where companies have walked away from their obligation to clean up after production.

“They are shifting that cost to you and me,” Jenkins explained. “They’re making the profit, and we’re getting the bill. It’s not a bunch of bureaucratic red tape; it’s a simple fix. All we have to do is require bonding amounts that reflect the actual cost of cleanup and reclamation.”

There currently are more than 740,000 orphan wells across the U.S., according to the Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission.

Jenkins noted after wells are tapped out, many producers declare bankruptcy, which shifts the cost of cleanup to taxpayers. Those same principals then pop up under a new company name and get back to work at new sites.

Taxpayers lost out on more than $12 billion in oil and gas revenues between 2010 and 2019, according to an analysis by Taxpayers for Common Sense.

Build Back Better would increase royalty rates companies pay for extracting resources owned by all Americans. Industry groups have long claimed higher fees would blunt production, but Jenkins disagreed.

“Texas, for example, charges double the royalty rate that the federal government does for drilling on state lands in Texas,” Jenkins pointed out. “That hasn’t dampened demand for drilling on state lands in Texas at all.”

Jenkins’ group is also calling on the Biden administration to direct the Bureau of Land Management to stop treating public lands as though oil and gas extraction was their sole purpose.

“So they’re not managed for outdoor recreation or hunting or fishing or water supply or grazing,” Jenkins outlined. “They are being managed for oil and gas. That’s an enormous lost opportunity. We should be looking to use our public lands for their highest and greatest use.”

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