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Report underscores need for oil, gas leasing reforms

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Eric Galatas

(Colorado News Connection) President Joe Biden's Build Back Better Act includes reforms for oil and gas production on public lands first introduced by the Reagan administration.

Pegah Jalali, environmental policy analyst at the Colorado Fiscal Institute, sees the reforms as an opportunity to hold companies accountable for environmental costs, and to fix a program a recent Department of Interior report found to be outdated and broken.

"It benefits oil and gas companies," Jalali contended. "And harms public lands and habitats, and exacerbates climate change, and puts huge financial burdens on communities and taxpayers."

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Taxpayers lost out on more than $12 billion in oil and gas revenues between 2010 and 2019, according to analysis by Taxpayers for Common Sense. Build Back Better would increase royalty rates
companies pay for extracting resources on public lands for the first time in more than 100 years, a move industry groups say would increase costs and limit production.

According to a poll conducted earlier this year by Colorado College, 78% of Coloradans say oil and gas development on public lands should be stopped or strictly limited.

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Jalali agreed the reforms could increase costs to oil and gas companies.

"They have been profiting from these public resources that belong to all Americans, and they have not paid the fair returns to taxpayers," Jalali asserted.

The Interstate Oil and Gas Compact Commission estimates there are more than 740,000 orphan wells across the U.S.

Jalali emphasized Build Back Better would increase bond amounts companies have to put up before drilling to cover costs of reclamation.

"(Many) oil and gas companies, when they are done with production of the well, they just abandon the well, or they declare bankruptcy," Jalali pointed out. "And then the communities and taxpayers are left with the huge costs of cleanup."