Last week, The Trump administration released its “America First Energy Plan” which, among other things, promises to expand oil and gas production on federal lands across the West. For those of us are concerned about the sweetheart deals oil companies have often gotten from drilling on public lands, this sets off some alarm bells.
But if you look at the finer details, it seems that the Administration is advocating for policies that deliver the same benefits as some of our existing energy policies. For example, Trump’s plan says the administration “is committed to energy policies that lower costs for hardworking Americans and maximize the use of American resources.”
Current standards from the Bureau of Land Management do exactly that. Last year the BLM implemented a policy that requires oil and gas companies operating on public lands to stop negligent practices that result in massive amount of wasted gas.
Recent economic analyses estimate that these companies waste more than $1 million worth of gas every day. The standards require them to use existing technologies and best practices to reduce waste and deliver more of America’s energy resources to market.
This energy plan suggests the administration is on board with policies that protect resources owned by the American people:
“We must take advantage of the estimated $50 trillion in untapped shale, oil, and natural gas reserves, especially those on federal lands that the American people own.”
Americans do own these resources. That’s why BLM – with support of the public and dozens of elected officials — put these policies in motion. They prevent private companies from frittering away millions of dollars’ worth of gas that should be returned to the American people. And they can generate royalty revenues to fund major improvements to local infrastructure – another of the administration’s priorities.
According to the plan,
“We will use the revenues from energy production to rebuild our roads, schools, bridges and public infrastructure.”
Western communities would likely benefit from this investment in local infrastructure – but we can’t invest dollars we don’t have. And without BLM’s policies, taxpayers stand to lose some $800 million in royalty payments over the next decade.
Nonetheless, some in congress seem intent on destroying BLM policies that 80% of their western constituents support and which seem to be in line with the President’s own vision for domestic energy development. It’s baffling that one hand they are poised to support an expensive infrastructure plan, while on the other they want strip policies that generate hundreds of millions for infrastructure improvements.
If the administration wants to make smarter use of our energy resource, BLM’s efforts are an effective way to do that. It will return millions of dollars to taxpayers – something we all can agree is best for our country.