More sweetheart deals: Zinke stacks Royalty Policy Committee with special interests

Learn more about the committee members at

The first meeting of Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke’s handpicked Royalty Policy Committee will be held tomorrow. The Royalty Policy Committee is tasked with setting royalty rates for mining and drilling on federal lands. Research conducted by the Western Values Project (WVP) found that the committee is dominated by industry representatives and Zinke’s friends and campaign donors. Read more about the background and profiles of each member at

“This committee, charged with setting the price for drilling and mining on our public lands, is stacked full of special interests and Zinke’s campaign allies. Oil and gas lobbyists are already running the show at Ryan Zinke’s Interior Department, the last thing they need is another seat at the table,” said Chris Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project.

Some of the worst offenders include:

Even though the charter of the committee recommends “up to four members representing academia and public interest groups,” Zinke chose not to appoint a single taxpayer advocate to the committee.

In some of his first acts as Secretary, Zinke gave sweetheart deals to his special interest friends. Zinke stopped efforts to close a royalty loophole for fossil fuel companies, allowing them to continue to skirt taxes to the tune of at least $75 million per year and lowered the off-shore drilling royalty rate from 18.75 percent to 12.5 percent. He also recently approved the extension of a reduced royalty rate for his former campaign contributor Ach Coal’s Elk Mine in Colorado.

Secretary Zinke has cited low revenues to justify the devastating budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration, including eliminating 4,000 employees and an 85 percent reduction in the Land and Water Conservation Fund (LWCF), even as he continues to lower royalty rates and allow corporations to take advantage of loopholes. Despite the budget crunch, Zinke justified spending $12,000 to fly a chartered plane from a motivational speech given on behalf of a top donor in Nevada to his home state of Montana.

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