June 14, 2019

Representative Levin Introduces 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) announced the introduction of the Restoring Community Input and Public Protection 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 is cosponsored by House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ) and Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Chairman Alan Lowenthal (D-CA).

“Americans have a right to the beautiful public lands that we cherish, and they deserve to have a voice when it comes to potential oil and gas leasing on those public lands,” said Representative Levin. “It’s long-past time that we end the giveaways to fossil fuel companies and instead provide transparency and accountability over their efforts to exploit public lands. I’m proud to introduce legislation that will give local community members a seat at the table and protect our natural resources.”

“Decision-making power over our natural resources belongs with the American people, not just the oil and gas industry,” said Chairman Grijalva. “Rep. Levin’s bill restores some much-needed balance to our fossil fuel development, and I’m going to support it all the way to the House floor and beyond. The days of unaccountable corporate favoritism and black-box giveaways need to end, and House Democrats are going to take every step necessary to inject some democracy back into this process.”

“For too long oil and gas has benefited from outdated and favorable leasing policies on our public lands,” said Chairman Lowenthal. “These are natural resources that belong to all of us and it is unacceptable that companies can acquire leases with low bid amounts, rental fees, and royalty rates. The issues are compounded by the Trump Administration’s efforts to dramatically expand oil and gas development at a rapid rate, doing everything it can to expedite and ignore environmental protections and public input. This legislation is critically important and will go a long way to ensure that the public receives greater input and returns from leases on our public lands.”

“Our hopelessly outdated oil and gas laws were crafted at the outset of the industrial revolution with little regard for taxpayer fairness or environmental stewardship, said Drew McConville, Senior Managing Director at The Wilderness Society. “These commonsense changes are sorely needed to improve transparency for the public, protect our communities, and keep up with 21st century science. We commend Rep. Levin for taking this monumental first step and urge Congress to enact these reforms.” 

“Americans cherish our shared public lands,” said Tracy Stone-Manning, Vice President for Public Lands at the National Wildlife Federation. “This common sense bill not only ensures oil and gas development will be responsibly managed on our public lands, it increases the rights of private property owners and gives taxpayers their fair share of royalties. It is much needed and long overdue.”

“We welcome this meaningful reform measure that helps preserve basic property rights and allows surface owners to have a meaningful voice in oil and gas drilling under their property,” said Bruce Baizel, Earthworks Energy Program Director. “The Restoring Community Input and Public Protections in Oil and Gas Leasing Act gives landowners a seat at the table when the Interior Department plans to sell oil and gas from right under their feet. This basic courtesy should be a requirement for any oil and gas company that claims it wants to be a good neighbor.”

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

  • Protect taxpayers and ends 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

The legislation is endorsed by The Wilderness Society, the National Wildlife Federation, the League of Conservation Voters, Earthworks, and the Western Organization of Resource Councils.