New, Fiscally Responsible Oil & Gas Reforms Protect Taxpayers

New, Fiscally Responsible Oil & Gas Reforms Protect Taxpayers

For the first time in over 60 years, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) – the federal agency that oversees oil and gas activity on federal lands – has increased its bond minimums. Bonds are an insurance policy for American taxpayers – the true owners of federal lands – and are supposed to ensure that companies who drill on federal lands have set aside enough funds to cover plugging and clean-up costs once production is finished. But for decades BLM’s oil and gas bond minimums were never increased, not even to account for inflation and even as companies drilled tens of thousands of wells on federal land across the country. Companies could provide as little as $10,000 in bond coverage per lease no matter how many wells they drilled. This flawed-system led to a $13.7 billion deficit between the estimated reclamation costs for the 90,000+ wells on federal lands and the total amount of bonds held by BLM. Slowly but surely, BLM’s new bond minimums will bring that deficit down. Companies now have three years – a very generous timeframe, mind you – to increase their lease bonds to the new minimum of $150,000. This level accounts for inflation, as well as reclamation costs for a typical lease on public lands. And it builds on bonding reform at the state-level, as many states, including Wyoming, recently strengthened their bonding requirements in response to what some have described as an orphaned well “crisis.” Not surprisingly, the oil and gas industry would much prefer that you – the American taxpayer – continue to foot the bill for its clean-up costs. The...
The Hottest Summer on Record

The Hottest Summer on Record

The sweltering Summer of 2023 has come to a close. According to NASA and the World Meteorological Organization, it was Earth’s hottest summer on record, with July and August being the two hottest months ever recorded. Our warming climate has moved well beyond the era of minor temperature fluctuations and scientific modeling, it is slapping us in the face by smashing records and adversely affecting people’s lives. Here in the U.S., more than a dozen cities experienced their hottest summer ever. These include Pensacola, Sarasota and Key West, Florida; Mobile, Alabama; Brownsville, Corpus Christi, Del Rio, El Paso, San Antonio and Victoria, Texas; and Roswell, New Mexico. We are seeing real impacts on our health, on our economy and cost of living, and on our water and food supplies. The impacts of climate change are impossible to ignore, and its time for conservatives to get more engaged in crafting real solutions. Climate change is driven by the accumulation of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the Earth’s atmosphere, gases that act like a blanket to trap more the sun’s heat rather than allowing it to escape back into space. That extra heat not only results in sweltering heatwaves, it affects weather patterns, intensifies storms, expands the range of destructive or dangerous pests, and fuels wildfires. Florida, Arizona, California We have witnessed some record-breaking heat that put all previous summers to shame. NASA’s temperature data show that this summer’s record heat was not just a small blip on the radar. Average temperatures across the country during these months reached levels we’ve never seen before, bringing with them a multitude of challenges for...
CRS Releases “Restoring Accountability” Follow-up Report on Taxpayer Exposure from Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells

CRS Releases “Restoring Accountability” Follow-up Report on Taxpayer Exposure from Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells

PRESS RELEASE                     October 24, 2023 CRS Releases “Restoring Accountability” Follow-up Report on Taxpayer Exposure from Orphaned Oil and Gas Wells Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship (CRS), a national grassroots organization with more than 23,000 members, has produced a new report following up on its 2021 report Broken Promises, which detailed the staggering taxpayer exposure from orphaned and abandoned oil and gas wells. “Despite agreeing, as a condition of their drilling permit, to fully clean up and plug well sites once they are finished using them, oil and gas companies regularly skip out on that obligation, leaving us taxpayers on the hook for billions of dollars in clean-up costs,” explained CRS president David Jenkins. This new report, with updated data, underscores how this fiscal burden on taxpayers continues to grow and explains how long overdue new rules proposed by the Department of Interior (RIN 1004–AE80) to significantly increase its oil and gas program bonding requirements can help. In Broken Promises, we reported that at the end of FY2020, there were more than 96,000 “producible and service wells” on federal public lands, which could leave U.S. taxpayers on the hook for as much as $13.7 billion in future clean-up costs. Since then, BLM has approved more than 11,200 additional permits for oil and gas companies to drill new wells on federal public lands—wells that, without federal bonding reform in place, potentially exposing U.S. taxpayers to an additional $1.6 billion more in clean-up costs. Taxpayers could eventually have to pony up as much as $15 billion, and that does not account for any potential...
The Devastating Impacts of Pollinator Decline

The Devastating Impacts of Pollinator Decline

People often do not realize just how much of the food we eat only exists because of insect pollinators, especially bees. Bees are in fact essential in the production of at least a third of our food. This includes most of the fruits, nuts, vegetables, and seeds that are essential to our diets. That is why the fact that the American Bumblebee has completely vanished from eight states (Maine, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont, Idaho, North Dakota, Wyoming, and Oregon) should be a huge wake-up call for all of us. And this problem is not just limited to those states. In just the past two decades, the bumblebee population across the U.S. has declined by nearly 90 percent. A similar decline is happening with honeybees. Beekeepers across the country reported losing more than 45 percent of their managed honeybee colonies from April 2020 to April 2021. Pollinators directly contribute a whopping $24 billion to the U.S. economy. That number nearly doubles when you add in their indirect contribution to other agricultural products like milk and beef. Globally, 75 percent of the top 115 food crops depend on pollinators. In the Bible verse (Matthew 25) where Jesus talks about our duty to care for “the least of these,” meaning the less fortunate, His words seems equally applicable regarding our obligation to protect pollinators. Without these tiny pollinators, many will suffer. Crop scarcity not only leads to famine in parts of the world, it also will cause food shortages and prices to skyrocket here at home. Why is this happening? There are several reasons. Habitat loss and a changing climate play...
Protecting Our Atmosphere the Reagan Way

Protecting Our Atmosphere the Reagan Way

Way back in 1987, President Ronald Reagan pushed through an international treaty to phase out the use of chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs), chemicals that scientists suspected of eroding the earth’s protective ozone layer. That treaty, called the Montreal Protocol, has been the most successful environmental treaty in history. In fact, because of Reagan’s leadership, the ozone hole over Antarctica is healing. According to NASA, the hole should completely vanish in about 50 years. Today, however, we now know that the chemicals developed to replace CFC-based refrigerants, hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) harm the atmosphere in a different way. They are extremely potent greenhouse gases. The most commonly used HFC is 3,790 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Back in December (2020), a funding bill passed by Congress included a bipartisan climate agreement to phase-down production and consumption of HFC super-pollutants. That legislation, which authorizes the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to slash HFC emissions, passed and was signed into law by then President Trump. Now the Biden administration is following through on that. Its new EPA rule seeks to decrease U.S. production and use of HFCs by 85% over the next 15 years. That is real progress, but HFCs and our warming climate are global problems, not simply something we can solve alone. Other countries must follow our lead—and that is where Reagan’s Montreal Protocol comes back into play. Kigali Amendment In 2016, the United States and other protocol signatories drafted and approved the Kigali Amendment. The Kigali Amendment is a global pact under the Montreal Protocol that focuses on the phase out of climate warming HFCs. The United States signed the amendment in 2016...
Lake Okeechobee – More Than Just Your Average Lake

Lake Okeechobee – More Than Just Your Average Lake

Most people probably imagine the surrounding ocean when they think of Florida’s great water assets. Lake Okeechobee, though, is the third largest freshwater lake in the nation. To say this lake is massive is an understatement. The lake itself has a 135-mile shoreline, a surface area of 730 square miles, and contains several islands. Lake Okeechobee—surrounded by towns like Belle Glade, Okeechobee, Pahokee, and South Bay—is a hub for tourism and attracts many outdoor and boating aficionados. The lake itself is an excellent fishery with some of the best bass fishing in in the world. Whether you live in Florida or just come for a visit, Lake Okeechobee has a lot to offer. For South Florida, Lake Okeechobee is a vital economic and ecological resource. It brings in huge amounts of revenue to the region while providing critical habitat for birds, fish, and many other wild creatures. The lake also plays a key role in flood control and the water supply of South Florida. It is an essential water source for nearby farms, residents, businesses, and wildlife. Florida may be nicknamed the “Sunshine State”, but the state also gets its share of storm events that bring heavy rain. Whether this comes from typically afternoon thunderstorms or tropical storms and hurricanes, flooding is an issue that many Florida cities face yearly. The ability of Lake Okeechobee and its surrounding wetlands to collect and hold water provides essential flood protection for the area. Recent years have shown a decline in the overall health of the lake. Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) has classified Lake Okeechobee as a Class I drinking...

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