This press release was originally posted through Western Values Project. Western Values Project is now Accountable.US.

Bureau Of Land Management Awards Polluting Industry More Relief; Unilateral Move Will Kneecap State and Local Government Budgets

After the Associated Press reported on more big oil bailouts being granted by the Trump administration, Western Values Project released new research on some of the big oil corporations who are now cashing in on Trump’s Interior Department’s decision to cut royalty rates and suspended leases on federal public lands. 

“It should be clear by now that the fix is in. President Trump’s administration has prioritized bailing out big oil companies at the expense of small businesses that actually need the government’s help to weather this crisis,” said Jayson O’Neill, Director of Western Value Project. “Now, his Interior Department is doubling down by unilaterally handing out royalty cuts and lease suspensions like candy to Big Oil corporations. The administration’s actions will further cripple state and local governments’ ability to fund critical services like first responders, firefighters, and teachers.”

Since the new guidance was revealed, the Bureau of Land Management has been granting hundreds of royalty rate cuts and suspending leases with some rates being cut to 0.5% from the already low and outdated 12.5%. In total, the Trump administration has granted some 480 lease suspension or royalty cuts across approximately 447,000 acres of public lands according to reports pulled from the antiquated LR2000 database. Western Values Project has also found several discrepancies in the bureau’s data. 

Astoundingly, both guidance letters that solicit royalty rate cuts and lease suspensions from extractive resource corporations operating on public lands fail to provide any public oversight or public comment periods and ignores state and local governments. The bureau’s updated guidance made it even easier for oil corporations by removing the requirement that royalty cuts are needed to make the oil well economically viable, which could be in response to rebounding prices that would no longer justify the action. Half of all royalties collected from development on federal public lands is shared with state and local governments. 

Big Oil Corporations Cashing In Include:

The Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement also indicated that five Gulf of Mexico oil corporations were granted royalty cuts but refused to disclose their names. Former mega-lobbyist Interior Secretary David Bernhardt previously lobbied on behalf of an offshore oil lobby association that has been clamoring for bailouts.

“Big oil learned really quickly that gobbling up gobs of taxpayer dollars in broad daylight wouldn’t go over too well so they enlisted their former lobbyist turned-Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to open this backdoor with little to no transparency or oversight. The Trump administration’s willingness to bypass needed help for American families and small businesses just to bail out its big oil corporate pals can only be described as corrupt,” O’Neill said.

Last week, Western Values Project exposed acting director Pendley’s conflict of interest after revealing that members of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming, which is listed on Pendley’s recusal documents, were being awarded the most royalty cuts and lease suspensions within the state.

Some of the same big oil corporations that are getting this additional bailout are cashing in on other taxpayer-funded relief programs which exemplifies the administration’s special interest favoritism. Earlier this week, Accountable.US released an analysis of new data from Trump’s Small Business Administration that revealed over 62% of all extractive resource corporations, including Big Oil corporations, and related industries have been awarded bailout funds through the Payroll Protection Program.

The Trump administration and the Interior Department have been desperately bailing out big oil and extractive corporations despite the industry’s boom-bust cycle and negative balance sheets. The Interior Department is also still plowing forward with oil and gas leasing, with leases often going for less than a cup of coffee, and major policy decisions despite repeated requests for a pause during the ongoing pandemic.

Learn more about the special interests fueling the Trump administration at Accountable.US and ongoing efforts to carve out more big oil, coal, and mining bailouts at

back to top