Interior Department report calls for higher oil and gas royalties. Murkowski objects.

Pipelines stretch twoards the horizon on NPR-A land leased by ConocoPhillips. (Elizabeth Harball/Alaska’s Energy Desk)

A new report from the Interior Department says the U.S. taxpayer isn’t getting enough benefit from oil and gas leasing on federal lands.

The Biden administration’s blueprint, released the day after Thanksgiving, calls for an increase in the royalty rate — the percentage of revenue oil and gas producers have to pay to the government. It also says companies need to provide a higher level of bond to ensure taxpayers aren’t stuck paying to rehabilitate old wells if the operator refuses to do the work or goes bankrupt.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski slammed the report, saying on Monday that it’s intended to drive oil and gas production off federal lands. She said that would make the U.S. more dependent on foreign production and increase energy prices.

The report doesn’t make any regulatory changes but some of the concepts are already included in the so-called “social infrastructure” bill the House passed before the Thanksgiving holiday. Murkowski said the harm to domestic energy production is one reason among many the Senate should reject that bill.

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Liz Ruskin is the Washington, D.C., correspondent for Alaska Public Media. She reports from the U.S. Capitol and from Anchorage. Reach her at lruskin@alaskapublic.org.

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