When the federal government last changed its royalty rate for oil and gas production on America’s public lands, Standard Oil’s monopoly had only recently been broken, Ford’s Model A still had not rolled off the assembly line, the Teapot Dome scandal had yet to erupt and rock the U.S. Department of the Interior and the administration of President Warren G. Harding, and the 20s had just begun to roar. In the 95 years since the Mineral Leasing Act first set the federal royalty rate for oil and gas at 12.5 percent, the federal government’s oil and gas revenue policies have remained firmly fixed in the past while state governments and private landowners have, time and again, updated the terms for development on their lands.
As a result of the federal government’s failure to modernize its oil and gas program, U.S. taxpayers are losing out on more than $730 million in revenue every year. At the same time, oil and gas companies are stockpiling leases and sitting idle on the rights to drill on tens of millions of acres of public lands. When companies have drilled for oil and gas, the American public has often been left footing the bill to clean up the environmental damage that has been left behind.
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