Congressman Lowenthal Introduces Two Bills To Hold Oil And Gas Developers On Public Lands Accountable

March 2, 2021
Press Release

Congressman Alan Lowenthal (CA-47), today, introduced two bills that will dramatically increase accountability of oil and gas developers on public lands. The first bill, the Bonding Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act, will increase the amount of bond that oil and gas developers must post before being allowed to drill on public land leased from the federal government. The second bill, the Transparency in Energy Production Act, will require the Department of the Interior (DOI) to disclose to Congress and the public not just the amounts of greenhouse gas emissions from these projects, but also the exact sources of emissions.

“The record drop in oil and gas prices in 2020 resulted in increased abandoned and orphaned wells and because bond amounts have not been updated in decades, they are inadequate to cleanup and reclaim these sites,” Congressman Lowenthal said. “This leaves the financial burden up to the taxpayers.  Un-reclaimed wells, continue to emit methane and other pollutants, contaminating the air, soil, and water. The Bonding Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act will ensure that oil and gas companies, not taxpayers, pay for these reclamation costs.”

The bonds, required from companies before being allowed to develop leased public land, are held by the federal government as a guarantee that all wells are cleaned up (reclaimed) when no longer in use. The bonds are also used to clean up orphaned wells in the case of a development company going out of business before cleaning up operating wells.

The amount of bond required for different public land oil and gas leases has not been adjusted since the 1950s and 1960s. The Bonding Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act will increase the bond amounts for a single lease from $10,000 to $150,000 and sets the amount for a set of leases in a single state from $25,000 to $500,000.

Additionally, the Bonding Reform and Taxpayer Protection Act, requires companies to develop and present a detailed reclamation plan to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) before any development can occur on leased public land, requires higher bonds where necessary to ensure complete and timely reclamation of a lease, sets fees to cover the cost for inspection and enforcement, and gives U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service the same statutory authority as BLM, the National Park Service, and the U.S. Forest Service to retain bonds for oil and gas operators to address onsite damages.

Also introduced today, the Transparency in Energy Production Act will allow the American people to have information about the impact of fossil fuels by having companies who hold, or are seeking, a lease to drill on federal lands, record and report the resulting emissions that come from drilling on the land or in the water. The legislation requires industry-developed reporting standards established by the nationally recognized Sustainable Accounting Standards Board (SASB) to ensure quality reporting.

"The foundation of any successful plan to reduce emissions is to first quantify the amount of greenhouse gas emissions being emitted and where are they coming from," Congressman Lowenthal said. "Increasing the transparency around energy production programs on federal lands and waters, critically important understanding the severity of the problem and allow us to properly plan for addressing the problem before us. The American people deserve transparency and have the absolute right to know how their government is impacting the environment.”