The Interior Department’s Royalty Policy Committee (RPC) will hold its fourth public meeting in Lakewood, Colorado, where the committee will be discussing permitting on federal lands. Created last year, the committee advises Secretary Ryan Zinke on royalties for income derived from energy development on public lands. Previous Western Values Project research found that the makeup of the RPC was stacked in favor of industry, and that even recently added “public interest” representatives are actually just special interest allies.
Since the last meeting, former RPC Chairman Vincent DeVito — previously Secretary Zinke’s Counselor for Energy Policy — left his post at Interior for a job at oil giant Cox Oil Offshore LLC. Secretary Zinke named Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement Director Scott Angelle as DeVito’s replacement. Over the course of his career, Angelle has taken in more than $450,000 in political contributions from the oil and gas industry. Angelle has run in various races in Louisiana: in 2012 he ran for a seat on the Louisiana Public Service Commission, in 2015 he ran for Governor of Louisiana, and most recently, in 2016, for Congress.
“As it turns out, none of the energy executives appointed by Ryan Zinke to the Royalty Policy Committee are there to defend taxpayers’ best interests, ” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project. “This committee has yet to make any recommendation that actually helps taxpayers or collects lost royalties, but they’re quick to deliver lucrative favors for extractive industries. Secretary Zinke has practically handed the keys to the front door of the Interior Department over to corporate special interests.”
Last month, the Interior Department was also sued by conservation groups for the committee being too heavily stacked with industry representatives.
In tomorrow’s meeting, industry front group Western Energy Alliance (WEA) is on the agenda to present a recommendation for a pilot program, that, if adopted, would make it more difficult for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to oversee permitting on federal lands, and would give oil and gas corporations more autonomy to drill. WEA’s president, who is slated to present the proposal, is an alternate member of the committee. The front group previously influenced Interior on the sham sage-grouse overhaul that broke agreements across 11 states, allowing oil and gas development in critical habitat across the West.
Notably absent from the meeting agenda is any discussion of reinstating the BLM’s Methane Waste Prevention Rule, a rule that required oil and gas companies to limit the leaking of methane or flaring on public lands and to pay royalties on methane captured. In December 2017, Secretary Zinke suspended the Methane Waste Prevention Rule. Since the rule was shelved, taxpayers have been losing an estimated $219,178.08 per day in wasted royalty revenue, adding up to a projected $800 million in lost royalties over the next ten years that could be used to address infrastructure needs or the national park maintenance backlog.
Learn more about all the members of the Royalty Policy Committee at https://departmentofinfluence.
Also published on Medium.