© Reuters. PHILEFOTO. US Secretary of the Interior Deb Hollande Hears a Question During the Department of State’s 2022 Budget Inquiry at the Capitol Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Washington, July 27, USA, July 27.

By Jarrett Renshaw, Valery Volkovich և Nikola Grum

(Reuters) – The Biden administration on Friday proposed a series of changes to the country’s federal oil and gas leasing program, including drilling companies’ travel fees to restrict access to sensitive wildlife and cultural sites.

The recommendations were followed by a month-long review aimed at ensuring that the benefit of federal land and water drilling benefits the public. But as a sign of extreme controversy over the issue, environmental groups criticized the proposals as too weak, and industry as too harsh.

The administration of President Joe Biden launched a review earlier this year that was widely seen as a step toward his campaign promise to stop drilling for new fossil fuels in the federal territories to combat climate change.

Under the US Federal Oil and Gas Leasing Program, the Department of the Interior must hold regular auctions for the drilling industry to boost domestic energy self-sufficiency and raise money for the state treasury.

The Department of the Interior report, however, said the current program “does not serve the public interest” – called for new rules to increase royalty rates, bond rates – other payments to producers. The current law requires a minimum royalty rate of 12.5% ​​for oil and gas extracted on federal land, a level that has not changed in nearly a century.

The report also proposed new rules to avoid rent, “which contradicts recreation, wildlife, conservation and historical and cultural resources,” the report said.

“Our nation is facing a deep climate crisis that is affecting every American,” said Home Secretary Deb Hollande in a statement.

“The Department of the Interior has a responsibility to manage our public lands and waters responsibly, ensuring fair income to taxpayers and mitigating the deteriorating effects of the climate.”

The American Petroleum Institute, which represents the US oil and gas industry, has criticized the proposals, saying they would be for domestic energy producers at already high gasoline retail prices.

At the same time, environmental groups, including the Center for Biodiversity և Food & Water Watch, objected to the proposals as too weak.

“These small changes are almost meaningless in the face of this climate emergency; they are breaking Biden’s campaign promise to end new oil and gas leases on public lands,” said Randy Spivak, CBD Public Lands Director.

“More greening of fossil fuels and then raising interest rates by raising royalties, which is normal, is like rearranging Titanic paving,” he said.

About a quarter of the country’s oil and gas comes from federal leases, and the program raises billions of dollars for federal and state budgets.

LATE DECLARED REPORT

The Ministry of Interior assumed that the report on the lease would be published by the beginning of the summer, but postponed it several times without explanation.

The department also tried to suspend oil and gas leasing during the program review, but was forced to resume auctions after several oil and gas states sued in federal court.

For example, this month the federal auction of millions of acres in the US Gulf of Mexico led to a high price of more than $ 190 million, the highest since 2019, among major buyers: Exxon Mobil: Corp (NYSE 🙂 Shron Corp (NYSE :), BP (NYSE 🙂 Plc և Shell (LON :):

Hollande said he wanted to reduce carbon footprint in the country’s federal waters, by encouraging leasing of renewable energy sources such as wind, solar and geothermal energy instead of fossil fuels.

Biden, meanwhile, aims to carbonize the U.S. economy by 2050, making it the world’s second-largest emitter of greenhouse gases, in part by encouraging a shift to fossil fuels.