Washington, DC — Today, government watchdog Accountable.US released a report showing that while President Biden’s conservation agenda stalls, his administration has continued giving wealthy oil and gas companies a “sweetheart deal” to drill on public lands across the United States. The new research, first reported by Grist, shows that reforming the federal public lands leasing program could be a boon for western states that are currently missing out on nearly $1.6 billion in additional revenue that typically funds public schools and other government services. It was recently reported that Biden’s Interior Department approved nearly 900 more permits to drill on public land in 2021 than the Trump administration did in its first year in office.

The Biden administration is allowing critical land conservation efforts to languish while they are busy handing out drilling permits on public lands to wealthy oil and gas companies. The fact that they approved nearly 900 more permits in their first year in office than Trump did in his first year is incredibly disappointing. For too long, the oil and gas industry has refused to pay a fair price for drilling on leased public lands. Public schools in western states are being cheated out of potentially millions in additional funding. It is time for the Biden administration to put the interests of American families first by reforming the public lands leasing program without further delay.”

Jordan Schreiber, a spokesperson from Accountable.US


  • States Missing Out On Nearly $1.6 Billion: All told, California, Colorado, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Utah, and Wyoming could have seen as much as $1,582,079,612.91 in additional revenue in 2019 alone if the Biden administration had finally updated the U.S. public lands leasing program to charge wealthy oil and gas companies royalty rates in line with what states charge rather than the current federal rates that have not changed in 100 years.
  • Companies Pulling Billions Out of Western States: As the Accountable.US report notes, despite histories of severe environmental violations, dodging royalty payments, and sitting on unused public lands leases for years, big name oil giants like Exxon, EOG Resources, and ConocoPhillips have made billions of dollars in profits off their drilling activities in the west — all while Americans are deprived of a fair return for allowing extraction on public lands.
  • Companies Benefiting Despite Harmful Histories: The report demonstrates that among the top 20 authorized leaseholders in the country are 12 companies with histories of deliberately shortchanging mineral rights owners — including the public — and 16 companies with records of serious environmental harm, including some of the worst methane polluters in the country. 
  • Companies Fearmongering About Biden Policies: Despite several of these companies raking in billions in profits, they have continued to take advantage of the current program’s outdated federal royalty rate while fear mongering about the Biden administration’s conservation policies in hopes of continuing to avoid paying their fair share.
  • Low Federal Rates Unchanged for 100 Years: The 100-year-old royalty rate has long made federal oil and gas leasing a sweetheart deal for Big Oil at the expense of taxpayers. When oil and gas corporations drill on public lands, they compensate the American people with royalty payments, an important revenue that funds important state and local government services, especially public schools. The Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 set the current public lands oil and gas royalty rate at 12.5 percent, a number that is substantially lower than what western states charge on state public lands.
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