Colorado Republican Rep. Lauren Boebert has introduced legislation that could potentially leave us, the taxpayers, footing a colossal bill of up to $17.7 billion for cleaning up after the fracking industry. Yes, you heard that right. According to Public Citizen, this move, backed by oil and gas lobbyists, is a clear attempt to thwart the Biden administration’s efforts to make these companies responsible for their mess.
Let’s break it down: The Biden team wants to strengthen federal requirements to ensure that fossil fuel companies clean up their act, literally, on public lands after they’re done extracting oil and gas. But Boebert’s proposal? It’s pushing the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to toss this idea out the window. Welcome to the House Natural Resources Committee’s newest headache.
Here’s the kicker: The oil and gas industry, with its boom-and-bust nature, is infamous for abandoning wells when the going gets tough. Prices drop, and suddenly, it’s a ghost town with taxpayers left holding the bag. As Alan Zibel from Public Citizen puts it, this puts us at a higher risk for cleanup costs as these bad actors simply vanish, leaving their mess behind.
The BLM is in charge of a massive area of public land in the Western U.S., with more than 89,000 wells. For decades, the industry has taken advantage of lax federal rules, extracting resources and then selling them back to us or overseas. And what does the public get in return? “Woefully inadequate royalties,” as per Public Citizen.
President Biden’s been trying to stop new leases for fossil fuel extraction on public lands, but industry lawsuits are stalling those efforts. Now, the administration is looking to increase royalties and enforce tougher rules to ensure we’re not left paying the cleanup bill. But here comes Boebert’s bill, directly opposing these measures.
Let’s talk numbers: Bonds. Currently, companies have to post a bond to obtain a lease for drilling on federal land. This bond is supposed to cover the government’s cleanup costs if the company bails. But, these bonds are often too little, too late, and taxpayers end up shouldering the burden.
With estimates ranging from $35,000 to $200,000 per well for cleanup, Public Citizen calculates that taxpayers could be liable for a staggering $2.9 billion to $17.7 billion! And Boebert’s reasoning? She claims that smaller oil and gas companies can’t afford to pay updated royalties and bonds – which are returned if they clean up after themselves.
This situation is dire. In Louisiana, for example, over 4,600 abandoned wells have become the state’s headache, posing threats to public safety and the environment. And it’s not just Louisiana. Western states like Texas, New Mexico, and even Boebert’s own Colorado are sitting on a ticking time bomb with the current fracking boom.
Rep. Raul Grijalva, a progressive Democrat, has introduced an amendment to block Boebert’s bill until we’re sure it won’t subsidize the oil and gas industry’s profits. He’s calling out the Big Oil industry for making record profits while leaving state governments and local communities with billion-dollar cleanup tabs.
In a world where the fossil fuel industry is thriving with record levels of extraction, it’s clear that this isn’t an industry in need of government handouts. Yet, Republicans and industry lobbyists continue to attack the Biden administration’s attempts to curb climate-warming pollution and reform outdated regulations.
It’s time we see these “modest, sensible efforts” for what they are: a necessary step to protect both the environment and the taxpayer’s wallet. Don’t let Boebert’s bill turn us into unwilling participants in the fracking industry’s cleanup debacle.