Democrats fight relief sought by Reps. Cole and Hern

Democrats in the U.S. House have come out against a request made by 30 Republican Representatives, including Oklahoma Reps. Tom Cole and Kevin Hern to provide royalty relief for oiol and gas producers drilling on federal lands during the coronavirus crisis.

Led by Natural Resources chairman, Rep. Raul Grijalva of Arizona, the Democrats have urged the Interior Department to reject the plea of the Republicans. They sent their own letter to Secretary David Bernhardt, claiming a 1986 decision by the Interior Board of Land Appeals requires case-by-case determinations that royalty cuts are financially necessary.

And they added that royalty cuts now are not in the public interest because they would be “padding the profits” of fossil fuel companies. The Democratic response comes after groups of House and Senate Republicans pushed for royalty relief last week.

Reps. Cole and Hern and others asked the Interior Department to temporarily pause or suspend royalty fees from oil, gas, coal and other minerals produced on federal land.

“We ask your support in providing relief within your existing authority, to essential industries impacted as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, until our nation gets back on track,” wrote the Representatives.

“Ideally, any reduction would allow producers working on the federal estate to forgo the federal portion of required royalty payments while preserving the portion that is returned to the states so as not to negatively impact state revenues.”