Today, Secretary Jewell will appear before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee to defend President Obama’s budget request for the Interior Department. Below are the top questions Senators should ask Secretary Jewell.
Last month you imposed a moratorium on coal leasing on federal lands to ensure the program “takes into account its impacts on climate change.” The same rationale applies equally to natural gas and oil leasing as well as recreation on federal lands.
What is your timeframe to impose similar moratoria on natural gas and oil leasing as well as restrictions on recreation?
Since 2010, BLM has approved 34 utility-scale solar energy projects on federal lands. However, according to your office of Natural Resources Revenue, for FY2015 there are zero revenues to the federal government paid by the solar industry. Zero dollars from rents. Zero dollars from bonus bids. Zero dollars from royalties. In contrast, natural gas, oil, and coal paid more than $8 billion in royalties alone.
How does the solar industry compensate taxpayers for the use of federal lands and why does ONRR report zero revenues?
If oil production on federal lands had followed the trend of oil production on private and state lands, which increased by 89 percent from 2010–2014, then the oil royalty revenue alone would have generated an additional $18 billion from the added oil production in 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014.
If you are concerned about making sure federal lands realize a fair return for taxpayers (as stated in your rationale for your coal leasing moratorium), then why are you not leasing more land for energy production?
A recent study by the Institute for Energy Research, titled The Economic Effects of Immediately Unlocking Federal Lands, found that opening federal lands to natural resources development would result in:
- A GDP increase of $127 billion annually in the next seven years, and $663 billion annually in the next thirty years
- 552,000 jobs created annually over the next seven years, with 2.7 million jobs annually over the next thirty years
- $3.9 trillion in additional federal tax revenue over the next thirty-seven years, without the need for any new tax or other revenue legislation.
If you are concerned about making sure federal lands realize a fair return for taxpayers, then why are you not leasing more land for energy production?
**The first question here deserves extra attention. The coal leasing moratorium was a radical move by the administration to impose massive restrictions on all uses of federal lands, not just not coal leasing. The obvious next steps are not only moratoria on natural gas and oil leasing, but also on recreation due to “impacts on climate change.” The use of coal, like the use of natural gas, oil, and almost all types of recreation on federal lands, involves some emissions of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. These are the next targets for the administration.
To some, recreation might not seem like it involves carbon dioxide emissions, and therefore, “impacts on climate change.” Even backpacking, hiking, cross country skiing or other wilderness activities on federal lands generally involve some carbon dioxide emissions, as people usually drive cars to the wilderness boundary.
Patronage to National Parks also involves emitting carbon dioxide and “climate change impacts.” The Park Service reported that 307 million people visited National Parks last year including 15 million visits to the Blue Ridge Parkway. The vast majority of these visits to the Blue Ridge Parkway are people driving on the Parkway. Obviously, there is a large emissions component for automobile driving.
Furthermore, if oil and natural gas production had followed the large increases witnessed on private and state lands, the federal government could have seen an increase of royalties, rents, and bonus bids in excess of $20 billion over the past few years alone. If the administration is serious about making sure federal lands realize a fair return to the taxpayer, why are they not working to increase production when production has skyrocketed on other lands?
Question 3 Information Sources and Calculation:
Federal and non-federal oil production: https://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/CRS-federal-vs.-nonfederal.pdf
Federal oil royalties: http://statistics.onrr.gov/ReportTool.aspx
 Bureau of Land Management, Solar Energy, http://www.blm.gov/wo/st/en/prog/energy/solar_energy.html.
 Office of Natural Resources Revenue, Reported Revenues, All Land Categories in all States and Offshore Regions, For FY 2015, http://statistics.onrr.gov/ReportTool.aspx.