October 25, 2023

Re: House National Resources Committee Energy and Mineral Resources Subcommittee Hearing on H.R. 6009, the Restoring American Energy Dominance Act

Chairman Stauber, Ranking Member Ocasio-Cortez, and members of the House Natural Resources Committee’ Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources:

On behalf of the undersigned conservation, climate, and public lands organizations, we write today in strong opposition to H.R. 6009, the Restoring American Energy Dominance Act. This legislation circumvents and undermines the administrative process, ignores significant public input across the West, and halts a long overdue update to the federal onshore oil and gas leasing program that protects taxpayers, public lands and the wildlife and communities who rely on them. More importantly, it would prevent Interior from undertaking any substantially similar rule, effectively prohibiting the agency from doing its job to oversee the federal leasing program.

The Bureau of Land Management’s proposed Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Rule updates federal regulations to implement oil and gas program fiscal reforms enacted via the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). These reforms included increasing the royalty rate for producing oil and gas on federal public lands, realigning rents and fees to account for decades of inflation, and reducing speculation by ending non-competitive leasing and implementing a new nomination fee.

Beyond the IRA, the proposed rule includes a host of other long-overdue protections, including language to penalize routine abusers; preference criteria to steer leasing decisions away from critical habitats, cultural resources, and reduce speculation; and urgent bonding reforms that help ensure that oil and gas operators — rather than taxpayers and surrounding communities — bear the cost of cleaning up drilling sites after production ends.

The reforms in the IRA and this proposed rule — taken together — implement the baseline recommendations outlined by the Department of the Interior, address dire shortcomings in the oil and gas bonding system identified by the Government Accountability Office and other nonpartisan watchdogs over many years, and ensure taxpayers are not subsidizing the oil and gas industry and then paying to clean up drilling sites.

H.R. 6009 would require BLM to withdraw this proposed rule, scuttling many of these important fiscal reforms to protect taxpayers and complicating implementation of duly enacted statutes.

Moreover, the draft legislation runs contrary to the will of the general public. During the rule’s 60-day comment period, over 260,000 Americans submitted public comments for the record — over 99 percent of which were supportive of the rule.

Lastly, prohibiting the BLM from moving forward a substantially similar rule is a legislative poison pill. If enacted, it would preclude the agency from administering the federal onshore oil and gas program in the public interest and acknowledging challenges like climate change, extinction, and the clean energy transition — instead requiring that it maintain a broken status quo that favors special interest profits.

For these reasons, we oppose H.R. 6009, and we urge members of the subcommittee to not advance it. Sincerely,

Citizens for Clean Air, Grand Junction, CO
Coalition to Protect America’s National Parks
Colorado Wildlands Project
Conservation Colorado
Conservation Lands Foundation
Eagle Summit Wilderness Alliance
Endangered Species Coalition
Friends of the Earth US
Great Old Broads for Wilderness – Grand Junction Area Chapter
Great Old Broads for Wilderness – Northwest Colorado Chapter
Great Old Broads for Wilderness
League of Conservation Voters
National Parks Conservation Association
National Wildlife Federation
Natural Resources Defense Council
Nevada Wildlife Federation
Public Citizen
Rocky Mountain Wild
Sheep Mountain Alliance
Sierra Club
Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance
The Wilderness Society
Town of Nederland, CO
Western Colorado Alliance
Western Organization of Resource Councils
Western Slope Conservation Center
Wild Montana
Wilderness Workshop