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Wyoming governor calls Biden oil and gas leasing review ‘a frontal assault on western lands’

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CASPER, Wyo. — Wyoming Governor Mark Gordon on Tuesday criticized a new report on federal oil and gas leasing on public lands and waters from the Department of the Interior (DOI) under the administration of President Joe Biden as “a frontal assault on western lands that leaves nothing to be thankful for.”

The DOI report released on the day after Thanksgiving was in response to a Biden executive order directing the secretary of the interior to conduct the review and identify steps that can be taken “to increase renewable energy production” on federal lands and waters. The order sets out a “goal of doubling offshore wind by 2030 while ensuring robust protection for our lands, waters, and biodiversity and creating good jobs.”

The DOI said in the review released Friday that it “found a federal oil and gas program that fails to provide a fair return to taxpayers, even before factoring in the resulting climate-related costs that must be borne by taxpayers; inadequately accounts for environmental harms to lands, waters, and other resources; fosters speculation by oil and gas companies to the detriment of competition and American consumers; extends leasing into low potential lands that may have competing higher value uses; and leaves communities out of important conversations about how they want their public lands and waters managed.”

“The fiscal components of the onshore federal oil and gas program are particularly outdated, with royalty rates that have not been raised for 100 years,” the report adds. “States with leading oil and gas production apply royalty rates on state lands that are significantly higher than those assessed on federal lands. The Texas royalty rate, for example, can be double the federal rate. Likewise, bonding levels have not been raised for 50 years. Federal minimum bids and rents have been the same for over 30 years. These antiquated approaches hurt not only the federal taxpayer but also state budgets because states receive a significant share of federal oil and gas revenues.”

“For decades, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) and DOI’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) have sounded the alarm bell on the federal oil and gas program. The GAO, a non-partisan independent agency that works for Congress, has consistently called for Congress and the executive branch to reform oil and gas leasing on federal lands. The OIG, which provides independent oversight of DOI, has regularly highlighted energy management in its annual reports on major management and performance challenges, saying, ‘many of DOI’s energy programs are vulnerable to waste, fraud, and mismanagement, which can jeopardize public safety and environmental integrity and increase the financial burden on the American public.’”

Gordon said in Tuesday’s press release that the review was “quietly released the day after Thanksgiving” and “lacks merit.”

“The report encourages increasing the cost of producing oil and gas in Wyoming by hiking the royalty rate, taking more areas off the table for federal leasing and increasing the costs of bonding,” Gordon said. “None of these options are wise or necessary for Wyoming.”

“Wyoming is not over-leased. In fact, only 23% of the total mineral acreage held by the federal government is leased. With our state’s oil and gas industry just showing signs of recovery, this is the worst time to needlessly increase expenses such as jacking up royalty rates or instituting higher bond requirements. Wyoming already has an industry-funded, successful plugging and abandonment program. While we are asking our enemies to produce more oil, under less stringent regulations and drain our own national security reserves, further weakening our economy, we need to remember that the only result of the president’s actions will be driving more activity to foreign countries and to states with fewer federal lands and minerals.”

Gordon said that the Biden administration’s stance on energy could make the country more dependent “on our adversaries.”

“And for what?” Gordon added. “We can do more to reduce CO2 emissions by innovating new technologies that improve our standard of living than regulating into oblivion. Any potential modifications to the oil and gas leasing program identified by this review could have been brought forward without the illegal and devastating moratorium. As I have stated on multiple occasions to the Biden administration, the leasing moratorium does nothing to achieve their climate agenda.”

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