July 09, 2024

Rep. Mike Levin and House Natural Resources Committee Democrats Launch Probe of Colluding Oil Companies’ Use of Public Lands and Resources

WASHINGTON – Today, Rep. Mike Levin (CA-49), alongside 12 House Natural Resources Committee Democrats, led by Ranking Member Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), sent a letter to the U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) requesting information about Pioneer Natural Resources (Pioneer) and seven other oil companies implicated in a class action lawsuit alleging market manipulation with global oil cartel, Organization of Petroleum Exporting Companies (OPEC). The companies all hold oil and gas leases on our public lands, public waters, or both.

The letter highlights the Federal Trade Commission’s recent complaint about former Pioneer CEO Scott Sheffield colluding with OPEC to artificially raise oil prices, pointing out that using public resources to price gouge Americans is especially egregious:

“Such market manipulation would have enormous impacts on the price of gas paid by working families across the country. It would also mean that Pioneer, a major holder of leases on federal land, was using taxpayer resources to drive up the cost of gas to further increase profit rather than drive it down for consumers, as the industry has long promised.”

The lawmakers seek to understand whether the companies’ actions warrant suspension or debarment from leasing, drilling, or otherwise doing business on our public lands:

“Suspension and debarment can be undertaken for a wide range of reasons, including ‘any other cause of so serious or compelling a nature that it affects [the entity’s] present responsibility.’… A suspension only requires ‘adequate evidence’ of a suspected criminal or civil offense or other cause for debarment, as assessed by the suspension and debarment official (SDO). The standard of evidence is higher for a debarment than a suspension, requiring ‘a preponderance of evidence’ rather than ‘adequate evidence.’”

The letter requests information from DOI, including whether these companies could be suspended or debarred from future business with the federal government, as well as several metrics to help assess whether oil companies have been using public lands to inflate oil prices (e.g., number of unused leases and permits to drill, number of idle wells, etc.).

In addition to Pioneer, the seven other companies named in the letter include Permian Resources (formerly known as Centennial Resource Development), Chesapeake Energy Corporation, Continental Resources, Diamondback Energy, EOG Resources, Hess Corporation, and Occidental Petroleum.

READ the full letter to DOI here.