March 02, 2021

Rep. Mike Levin Reintroduces Legislation to Strengthen Public Land Protections and Increase Community Participation in Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Program

Washington, D.C. – Today, U.S. Representative Mike Levin (D-CA) reintroduced 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 in order to strengthen public land protections and increase community participation in the program. The bill would protect taxpayers, restore public input, and end giveaways for fossil fuel companies by eliminating noncompetitive oil and gas leasing, revoke Trump Administration actions that cut public comment periods, raise the onshore oil and gas royalty rate, and more.

“Americans have a right to shape how we protect and manage our cherished public lands, and we need to put their priorities first, not the oil and gas industry,” said Rep. Levin. “The Bureau of Land Management’s oil and gas leasing program is in desperate need of reform to strengthen public input in leasing decisions and ensure that taxpayers receive their fair share of royalties for profits made on public lands. I’m proud to reintroduce this legislation to give the public a seat at the table and I look forward to working with Chairman Raúl Grijalva to advance the bill through the House Natural Resources Committee.”

“Our nation’s system of fossil fuel leasing is broken: It gives handouts to oil and gas companies and has entangled community welfare and state budgets for schools and social services with the fossil fuel industry’s profits,” said Maria Handley, Director of Campaigns at The Wilderness Society. “This broken system lets industry CEOs essentially call dibs on millions of acres of land and then do nothing with them, tying the hands of agencies who then won’t actively manage these lands for conservation, recreation, climate resilience or other valuable community benefits. We applaud Reps. DeGette, Porter, Lowenthal and Levin on their leadership to tackle the climate crisis and putting the public first.”

“Fossil fuel companies have systematically polluted our communities and lands at the expense of public health and climate change, with almost no safeguards in place. This package of legislation is a necessary series of checks on the oil and gas industry," said Kelly Sheehan Martin, Director of Sierra Club’s Beyond Dirty Fuels Campaign. "We applaud Representatives DeGette, Levin, Porter, and Lowenthal for their continued, steadfast leadership and for prioritizing the health and safety of our communities.” 

“These bills help put the ‘public’ back in public lands stewardship,” said Sharon Buccino, director of Lands for the Natural Resources Defense Council. “For too long, fossil fuel industries have profited off publicly owned resources with little accountability. These lands and waters are held in trust for the benefit of all of us, and for future generations. There’s no time like the present to modernize the way we decide how they’re used, who has access, who gets a voice in deciding, and how to get the best value for these resources.”

The Restoring Community Input and Public Protections in Oil and Gas Leasing Act would:

  • Protect taxpayers and end giveaways for oil and gas companies by eliminating noncompetitive oil and gas leasing, requiring companies to pay a fee to nominate lands for leasing, and raising the onshore oil and gas royalty rate, rental fee, and the minimum bid amount;
  • Increase transparency by requiring companies that nominate lands for oil and gas leasing and bid on leases disclose their identities, and protects landowners by requiring the Secretary of the Interior to notify them and the broader public about oil and gas lease sales;
  • Restore community input by eliminating actions taken by the Trump Administration that cut public participation in oil and gas leasing decisions and shortened public comment periods;
  • Safeguard environmental resources by enhancing reviews under the National Environmental Policy Act, and reinstate the use of master leasing plans to better protect lands where drilling interests conflict with other uses
  • Require the Bureau of Land Management to write rules on the impacts to water resources of hydraulic fracturing on federal lands, including baseline water testing and public disclosure, and full public disclosure of fracking chemicals.

The legislation is endorsed by The Wilderness Society, Sierra Club, Nevada Wildlife Federation, Earthworks, Friends of the Earth, the Western Organization of Resource Councils, and others.