Zinke’s Royalty Policy Committee Meets To Discuss Giving Sweetheart Deals to Industry

When the Department of the Interior’s Royalty Policy Committee (RPC) meets today in Albuquerque to consider streamlining oil and gas permitting on federal lands, two new members supposedly representing the “public interest” will be in attendance. But the new members, David Kreutzer and Paul Blair clearly don’t represent the public, they represent special interests. David Kreutzer of the Heritage Foundation is a land transfer advocate while Paul Blair is an Americans For Tax Reform lobbyist with extensive ties to Koch-backed organizations.

“This committee, charged with setting the price for drilling and mining on our public lands, is already heaped full of special interests. Piling on more industry allies and lobbyists and trying to pass them off as representatives of the public interest adds insult to injury,” said Chris Saeger, Executive Director of the Western Values Project.

Previous research conducted by Western Values Project found that the makeup of the Royalty Policy Committee was heavily slanted in favor of industry. Last month Politico reported that the committee, after coming under fire for being too loaded with industry representatives, added Kreutzer and Blair as “subject experts” representing the “public interest” on the Planning, Analysis and Competitiveness subcommittee of the RPC.

Western Values Project found that David Kreutzer holds extremist anti-public lands views. In 2016, Kreutzer co-wrote a paper that advocated selling federal lands to the states and giving states control over permitting on federal land, an ask other industry groups have been begging Zinke’s Interior Department to do. Kreutzer was also a key player at President Trump’s EPA in the beginning of the administration.

The other new public interest member, Paul Blair, is a lobbyist for Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform, and appears to have no particular expertise on public lands issues. He is however, well-acquainted with organizations funded by the oil and gas billionaire Koch brothers, having previously worked for Americans for Prosperity, being a member of American Legislative Exchange Council, and being scheduled to speak at the Heartland Institute’s energy conference later this summer.

Among the proposals that will be discussed at today’s meeting is a controversial proposal that would allow Bureau of Land Management to issue categorical exclusions for a wide range of energy projects. At the last meeting, the Royalty Policy Committee recommended that DOI lower royalty rates for offshore oil and gas leases, a recommendation that went too far for even Secretary Zinke to adopt.

Learn more about all the members of the Royalty Policy Committee at Western Values Project’s Department of Influence.

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