Congressional Champions Push for Modernization of Federal Oil and Gas Policies

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

The bad news? Fossil fuel companies have systematically polluted our communities and lands at the expense of public health and our climate, with almost no safeguards in place.

The good news? Over the last several weeks, we have seen the health and safety of our communities, our wildlife, and public lands prioritized in the House of Representatives, where members of the Natural Resources Committee introduced a suite of bills to reform oil and gas leasing and close the fossil fuel industry’s financial loopholes. 

This package of legislation aims to put in place a series of much-needed checks on the oil and gas industry, and modernize the onshore oil and gas program — and that, friends, is reason to celebrate. The current oil and gas leasing system is broken and nearly four decades overdue for a review. For too long, oil and gas companies have been subsidized at the expense of our communities. It’s time for Congress to act and make sure public lands are managed for the public.  

The tide is turning, and our leaders are realizing it’s past time to update our federal oil and gas policies. These reforms are more important now than ever as the Biden administration tries to make up for lost time in tackling the climate crisis. This is a critically important first step that will protect our communities from fossil fuel pollution, ensure that the oil and gas industry pays its fair share, and move our country away from reliance on fossil fuels. 

Without further ado, here’s a breakdown of the good news:

  • Representative Diana DeGette (D-CO) introduced the Methane Waste Prevention Act, a bill to address harmful methane waste from the oil and gas industry on public and private lands. Methane is a greenhouse gas that is 87 times more potent than carbon dioxide during the time it remains in the atmosphere. This legislation would cement long-overdue and commonsense standards to limit methane pollution from the oil and gas industry and rein in excessive waste of vented and flared gas on public lands. This bill represents a major step forward in the fight to address climate change, protect public health, and reduce methane waste and pollution from the oil and gas industry.  

  • Representative Katie Porter (D-CA) introduced the Ending Taxpayer Welfare for Oil and Gas Companies Act of 2021, a bill that will address outdated federal onshore oil and gas fiscal policies, including royalty rates, rental rates, and minimum bid amounts. States have proven that increasing royalty rates increases revenue without significantly affecting oil and gas production on their lands. In addition, they can return those revenues to their constituents through increased funding for schools and other social services. This important legislation protects taxpayers, communities, and the planet.

  • Representative Alan Lowenthal (D-CA) introduced the Bonding Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act, a bill to help ensure complete and timely cleanup of oil and gas well sites by increasing — for the first time in 60 years — the minimum bond amount the Bureau of Land Management requires for reclamation. Right now, oil and gas companies are required to set aside only a fraction of the cost of cleaning up their old wells, forcing taxpayers to pick up the tab for the rest.  Corporate polluters need to be held accountable, and that includes using their own money to clean up after themselves — not the taxpayer’s dime. 

  • Representative Lowenthal also introduced the Transparency in Energy Production Act, which will give the American people information on emissions that come from drilling. The legislation requires companies to disclose specific data on emissions — not just the amounts, but also the sources. This is an important first step in making sure the American people have a clear picture of the impacts of fossil fuel drilling, and it puts us on track to better manage emissions overall.

  • Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) introduced the The Restoring Community Input and Public Protections in Oil and Gas Leasing Act, a bill to reform the Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas leasing program to strengthen public land protections and increase community participation in the program. The public should not be kept out of the process; this legislation restores opportunities for public input and ends giveaways for fossil fuel companies.

With your help, we look forward to advancing comprehensive policies that protect our communities, keep dirty fuels in the ground, and work to secure a prosperous, economically just future for all.

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