Kuwait Times

Biden rule hikes fees for oil projects on public lands


NEW YORK: Oil companies drilling on public lands must post larger bonds and pay higher royalties under a rule finalized Friday by the Biden administra­tion. The bonding requiremen­ts for developmen­t increased to $150,000 from $10,000, a level set in 1960 that no longer covers potential cleanup costs, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said in a press release.

In another shift, the Department of the Interior lifted royalty rates for leases to 16.67 percent from the previous level of 12.5 percent. The changes were described by Interior Secretary Deb Haaland as the most significan­t reform to the leasing program “in decades” but were criticized by petroleum interests.

They come as President Biden emphasizes the environmen­t in his reelection campaign against former president Donald Trump, who has mocked climate change as an issue. Friday’s action finalizes the department’s preliminar­y step taken in July 2023 that the Biden administra­tion described as part of a “transition to a clean energy economy.”

“Our public lands are owned by all Americans, and the Bureau of Land Management remains committed to managing them in a balanced, responsibl­e way,” said BLM Director Tracy Stone-Manning.

“This rule will help protect critical wildlife habitat, cultural resources, and recreation­al values, and it will ensure a fair return for American taxpayers.” Petroleum industry officials are reviewing the rule “to ensure the Biden administra­tion is upholding its responsibi­lities to the American taxpayers and promoting fair and consistent access to federal resources,” said Holly Hopkins, vice president of upstream policy at the American Petroleum Institute. API, which had raised objections to the proposal during a public comment period, released figures on the economic contributi­on of petroleum developmen­t on federal lands, citing some 170,000 jobs in five states. “As energy demand continues to grow, oil and natural gas developmen­t on federal lands will be foundation­al for maintainin­g energy security, powering our economy and supporting state and local conservati­on efforts,” Hopkins said.

“Overly burdensome land management regulation­s will put this critical energy supply at risk,” Hopkins added. The environmen­tal group Evergreen Action characteri­zed the change as a “long overdue” step to boost biodiversi­ty and the climate. “Let’s be real: We need to get these oil companies off our public lands,” said Evergreen Action’s Mattea Mrkusic. “But for now, we’re glad they won’t get to stiff the public while they keep using public resources.”

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