A federal advisory panel voted Wednesday to recommend that the Trump administration cut royalty rates for offshore drillers by one third.
Oil and gas produced offshore would be assessed at a 12.5 percent royalty rate, down from 18.75 percent, through 2024 under recommendations from the Interior Department’s Royalty Policy Committee.
The panel of officials representing energy companies, state governments, tribes and Interior officials made the recommendation to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke at a Houston meeting in an attempt to incentivize production of oil and gas.
The lower rate would apply to the value of oil and gas from drilling-rights leases sold starting later this year.
Zinke has the final say over whether to adopt the lower royalty rate.
Mineral production, both offshore and on federal land, is the second biggest contributor to the federal treasury, next to taxes.
Top congressional Democrats warned Zinke on Tuesday ahead of the vote against adopting the panel’s recommendation.
“This proposal would amount to a giveaway to some of the most profitable companies in the world and rob taxpayers of potentially billions of dollars of revenues over the life of the leases,” wrote Rep. Raúl Grijalva (Ariz.) and Sen. Maria Cantwell (Wash.), the top Democrats on the committees overseeing Interior.
“Selling off public land and resources as quickly as possible at fire-sale prices is not good stewardship; it’s a shell game where the oil, gas and coal industries win and the American taxpayers lose,” the said.
The royalty panel also voted to recommend that Zinke hold a drilling-rights sale in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as soon as practical, increase the offshore areas available for drilling and give coal mining companies leeway in setting the rates that are used to calculate royalties.