Commentary: Today, the Interior Department’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) announced it will formally withdraw a Trump-era rule that amended regulations governing how oil, gas, and coal companies assess the value of publicly-owned minerals they extract and the amount of royalties that they should pay to taxpayers. The Trump administration had previously rescinded an Obama-era ONRR valuation rule, an action that was subsequently struck down in court, then adopted a new ONRR rule in the final week before President Biden was inaugurated.
The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Policy Director Jesse Prentice-Dunn:
“In its final days, the Trump administration reopened loopholes that would allow oil and gas companies to skirt royalty payments owed to taxpayers. The oil and gas industry explicitly asked for the loopholes, and former oil lobbyist David Bernhardt, Trump’s Interior Secretary, delivered.
“The only purpose of this rule was for oil and gas companies to pocket money that is owed to taxpayers, and the Biden administration is absolutely right to rescind it.
“Going forward, it is critical that the Biden administration manage our public lands and resources on behalf of all Americans. In particular, the Interior Department should make sure taxpayers receive a fair share for resources we all own, while ensuring our public lands are part of the climate solution.”
According to the rule published in the Federal Register, the Interior Department estimates taxpayers will receive $64.6 million more in royalties each year than would have been collected under the Trump-era rule.
- In 2019, the American Petroleum Institute wrote senior Interior Department officials to explicitly ask that they draft a new ONRR valuation rule.
- A 2019 report by the Center for Western Priorities found that the Trump administration granted the wishes of oil, gas, coal, and uranium companies at a breathtaking pace. The report identified 53 specific policy actions within the jurisdiction of the Interior Department requested or supported by energy interests.