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. As a result, states like Montana are missing out on millions in additional revenue, which funds government services including public schools. 

According to the Accountable.US report, Montana could have seen as much as $12 million 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. 

As Politico PRO reported, “the Biden Interior Department approved nearly 900 more permits to drill on public land in 2021 than the Trump administration had in its first year in office, according to an analysis from progressive group Center for Biological Diversity.” 


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. Colorado’s public schools are being cheated out of potentially millions in additional funding. It is time for the Biden administration to put the interests of Colorado families first by reforming the public lands leasing program without further delay.” 

Jordan Schreiber, a spokesperson from Accountable.US

The Accountable.US report also identifies the major oil and gas companies that benefit most from the outdated federal leasing program. Montana has 2,327 oil and gas leases totaling 1.6 million acres of federal land. The 15 big oil companies with the most leases nationally hold 337,548 acres of Montana’s public lands – 21% of the state’s federal acres – across 816 leases, where they benefit from outdated federal leasing terms. Top lessees in the state include: 

  • Scout Energy, a private oil and gas company that is one of the oil and gas industry’s top methane emitters despite its small size;
  • ExxonMobil, the country’s largest fossil fuel producer that is responsible for one of the nation’s worst environmental disasters and has attempted to avoid at least $212M in royalties; and
  • EOG Resources, a former Enron company that has faced millions in lawsuits over failing to pay royalties while racking up billions in revenue.

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. If the federal rate were more in line with what states charge, Montana might have seen $12 million more in revenue in 2019 alone.  

For all of the details, read the full report from Accountable.US here. 

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