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Washington • Republican members of the Utah Congress join their Western colleagues in calling on the Department of the Interior to waive or reduce federal royalties on oil, gas and coal production on federal lands, as they say that the coronavirus epidemic is hurting the industry.
But they want the government to continue to collect the share that goes to states, including Utah.
“These critical industries seek to continue production rather than a bailout and should be given due consideration as such,” Utah Senators Mike Lee and Mitt Romney and 10 other GOP senators wrote to Bernhardt. . “There is no manual for the situation we find ourselves in and we must use all the existing authorities to allow them to get out on the other side of this untouched ordeal.”
Similarly, representatives Rob Bishop, John Curtis and Chris Stewart, all Republican from Utah, joined other members of the GOP House to ask Bernhardt to waive or reduce federal fees during the “national emergency”.
“These essential industries seek to continue production rather than a bailout and should be duly recognized as such,” wrote House Republicans. “There is no manual for the situation we find ourselves in and we must use all the existing authorities to enable them to withstand the economic impacts of this pandemic, which is not their fault.”
While GOP members argue industry is not seeking bailout, critics say that’s exactly what they are asking for – all in a crisis that has no direct impact on mining .
“The Americans are dying, the health care workers are putting their lives on the line and these twelve senators are spending their time trying to make sure that the oil and coal companies do not pay royalties? It is embarrassing and irresponsible, “said Matt Lee-Ashley, senior fellow at the Left Center for American Progress.
“The main priorities of the Interior Ministry at this time should be to help provide emergency health care resources to tribal nations and do everything in their power to stop the spread of the virus – period final. Secretary Bernhardt should make it clear that now is not the time to respond to bailouts from the petroleum industry, not to mention holding oil and gas rental sales as he did. “
Steve Bloch, legal director of the Southern Utah Wilderness Alliance, said Republican members of Congress “are asking Interior Secretary Bernhardt to authorize private oil, gas and coal companies in Utah and across the country to produce and sell federal products for private purposes and without compensating the federal taxpayer. “
“It’s amazing,” said Bloch. “And there comes a time when these same companies name and then buy hundreds of thousands of acres of leases on most of West’s remaining wilderness. Rather than supporting the fossil fuel industry, the time has come for the administration to lay the groundwork for a rapid and just transition to a clean energy economy focused on renewable energy. “
The Interior Ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
Utah GOP Congressmen have all taken large sums of money from the energy sector for their campaigns and political action committees during their careers, according to Center for Responsive Politics summaries. .
The industry has paid Lee $ 358,000 since taking office in 2011. Romney received approximately $ 114,000 in mining interest in his campaign for the Senate.
Stewart took $ 296,000 and Curtis about $ 55,000 to the industry.