Cantwell, Grijalva Call On Zinke To Give American Taxpayers A Fair Deal

Ranking Members Press Zinke on DOI Committee’s Recommended Cut to Offshore Drilling Royalties

Washington, D.C. – Today, Ranking Member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) and Ranking Member of the House Natural Resources Committee Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a letter to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke today pressing him for information on the Department of the Interior (DOI) Royalty Policy Committee’s decision-making process in light of Wednesday’s likely Committee vote to recommend cutting offshore royalties from 18.75 percent to 12.5 percent, a move that would represent a significant windfall to oil companies and a long-lasting hit to taxpayers. The likely change was first reported by the Washington Post. 

As the lawmakers write today, “Selling off public land and resources as quickly as possible at fire-sale prices is not good stewardship; it’s a shell game where the oil, gas, and coal industries win and the American taxpayers lose.” The full letter is available here.

The letter points out that the Committee has exceeded its charter with many of its recent recommendations, including drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, expanding the amount of acreage available for leasing offshore, reducing timelines for permit approvals, and changing how DOI provides for public input through the National Environmental Policy Act. These recommendations “have little or nothing to do with improving revenue collection or ensuring fair market value,” which is the panel’s purpose, the lawmakers write.

As Cantwell and Grijalva point out, the Committee is “already woefully stacked with resource extraction interests, misrepresenting the public and the scope of issues at stake for a full and fair evaluation of potential royalty reforms.” Accordingly, they ask Zinke to take the following steps:

• Release the full agenda, discussion topics, and policy proposals and research to be discussed at each meeting at least four weeks in advance to allow public participation and travel arrangements where necessary. 

• Provide access to the entirety of each of the meetings. At this time, it is the lawmakers’ understanding that the first day of the Houston meeting is closed, with subgroup meetings on the second day open for public viewing and a partial day of questions and answers. At minimum the public should have access to the meeting in whole, with sufficient time to address questions and further input. 

• Provide online access to materials and data presented, including transcript, video, and presentations

• Provide a period of time, no less than 90 days, for public review and comment on the RPC recommendations before any Department action on the recommendations.

A full copy of the letter is available here.