Energy secretary, Rick Perry, proposes oil-and-gas fee hike

The Obama administration proposed increasing the price to drill for oil and gas on public lands by 30% and charging other federal agencies more for the right to drill

The Obama administration has proposed a 30% increase in the price to drill for oil and gas on public lands and charging other federal agencies more for the right to drill.

The Department of the Interior said the proposal was part of its effort to ensure the government “remains the world’s leading advocate for energy production”, including drilling in areas held off-limits by the government because of potential oil spills.

Oil and gas production is currently a $22bn business for the federal government, and the department is seeking to lift all restrictions on exploring and drilling for both onshore and offshore resources on federal lands.

The energy secretary, Rick Perry, said Wednesday that the agency had been considering the increases for months but decided the timing was right given the slowdown in oil and gas drilling. “There’s a trade-off between encouraging American energy production and managing this oil and gas industry,” Perry said.

Perry and others said the decision would lead to more oil and gas in the country, jobs, and revenue for the federal government.

The department declined to provide more specifics on how the proposed increases would be distributed, saying it would be released in more detail in coming weeks. An agency spokesperson said that the proposal had not been finalised and a public comment period is expected to last 60 days.

Onshore oil and gas production has grown dramatically in recent years, with the department estimating that the public’s share of oil production on federal lands grew to 41% in 2016 from 22% in 1980.

Perry said the increase would mean the administration would be able to recover greater amounts of oil and gas from the same land.

However, restrictions on oil and gas drilling has been strongly opposed by drilling advocates and environmental groups, who say the process of hydraulic fracturing and other new techniques have resulted in a boom in oil and gas production while damaging the fragile environment.

“This is another bad idea to promote drilling on public lands,” said James Kaskie, spokesman for the Wilderness Society. “The Bush, Obama and Trump administrations have all considered this but never advanced it as a plan for America. The Trump administration should reverse course and invest in clean energy for America rather than underinvesting in America’s energy security.”

Earlier this week, Perry told the Associated Press that the rule would be reviewed to see if there was more the government could do to promote domestic energy production.

Perry was asked if a tougher rule would be introduced instead. “That’s what we’re going to look at,” he said. “I’m not going to rule anything out at this time.”

A spokeswoman for the interior department declined to comment.

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