April 9, 2020

The Honorable David Bernhardt Secretary
Department of Interior 149 C St., NW
Washington, DC 20240

Dear Secretary Bernhardt,

We, the undersigned groups, on behalf of our millions of members, urge you to reject calls by lawmakers for measures to relieve the oil and gas industry of essential obligations to American taxpayers that would do little to preserve jobs. These calls risk putting corporate profits above the emergency response required to mitigate the crisis that is the COVID-19 pandemic. The Department of the Interior should not heed them; the government’s paramount focus should be the health and safety of communities and workers across the nation.

In a time of crisis, royalty relief for producers of federal fluid minerals would do nothing to aid communities, but rather could come at their expense. This type of bailout could deprive federal and state budgets, already in crisis, of funds they now more than ever cannot spare. These funds will only become more critical in the following months to help prevent and respond to the spread of novel coronavirus, keep our friends, family, and essential frontline workers from dying, and provide economic relief to those who have lost or could lose their jobs and businesses.

There is no doubt that all American workers are in need of relief right now. For those in the oil and gas industry, that relief should not come from the revenue owed to the Treasury. In any event, measures aimed at increasing production levels are the opposite of what is needed now, given that the industry’s economic problems largely stem from a supply glut driven by foreign producers. Encouraging heightened, or even constant, production levels by waiving royalty payments and critical safety and transparency measures would only make the problem worse and put public health at risk.

Royalty relief would do little to preserve jobs or drilling businesses today, and we are concerned that the policy could persist indefinitely. The same is true of lease term extensions and other waivers, which would unfairly advantage industry for years beyond the likely term of this crisis and further endanger public health and safety under a system that already externalizes the costs of oil and gas production and reclamation on American taxpayers and landowners. Nor should your department be holding lease sales, limiting public comment periods, or granting coal producers royalty relief.

In the time of a pandemic, the American people deserve a cogent federal response that is systematically dedicated toward improving the resiliency and health of our communities, lands, and waters. Providing handouts to the oil and gas industry would directly conflict with such goals. We urge the Department of the Interior to direct its limited resources toward solutions that truly tackle the issues presented by the pandemic crisis.


Alaska Wilderness League Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments
Amazon Watch Arkansas Valley Audubon
Arkansas Valley Audubon Society Black Canyon Audubon Society
Blancett Ranches Boulder County Audubon Society
Californians for Western Wilderness Center for Biological Diversity
Center for Civic Policy Cheyenne High Plains Audubon Society
Clean Water Action Climate Hawks Vote
Climate Law & Policy Project Climate Smart Missoula
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks Comité Nacional de Lucha Contra el Cambio Climático, CNLCC
Conejos Clean Water Conservation Lands Foundation
Conserve Southwest Utah Dakota Resource Council
Denver Audubon Earth Ethics, Inc.
Earthjustice Earthworks
Endangered Species Coalition Environment America
Evergreen Audubon Fort Collins Audubon Society
FracTracker Alliance Friends of the Earth US
Global Witness Grand Canyon Trust
Great Old Broads for Wilderness Great Salt Lake Audubon
Green America Green Latinos
GreenFaith Greenpeace USA
Healthy Gulf (formerly Gulf Restoration Network) ICCR (Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility)
Idaho Conservation League Idaho Organization of Resource Councils
Jackson Hole Conservation Alliance League of Conservation Voters


Midori Law Group, P.C. Montana Conservation Voters
Montana Environmental Information Center National Audubon Society
National Parks Conservation Association Natural Resources Defense Council
New Mexico Horse Council New Mexico Interfaith Power and Light
New Mexico Sportsmen New York Communities for Change (NYCC)
NM Interfaith Power and Light Northern Plains Resource Council
Nuestra Tierra Conservation Project Oceana
Oil Change International Partnership for Responsible Business
Physicians for Social Responsibility Project On Government Oversight
Protect Our Winters Public Citizen
Publish What You Pay-US Rainforest Action Network
Red Desert Audubon Society Rio Grande Indivisible
Rocky Mountain Wild Sierra Club
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance Sunrise Movement El Paso
Surfrider Foundation The Climate Reality Project
The Mountain Pact The Wilderness Society
Transition US Waterkeeper Alliance, Inc.
Weminuche Audubon Society Western Colorado Alliance
Western Environmental Law Center Western Organization of Resource Councils
Western Values Project WildEarth Guardians
Wilderness Workshop 350 Butte County
350 Colorado 350 Colorado
350Brooklyn 350PDX