Statement by Dale McCall, President of Rocky Mountain Farmers Union:
“Farmers and ranchers in the West have long known that the broken federal oil and gas leasing program is not working for our communities. Thankfully, Secretary Haaland and the Biden administration’s report on the program lays out how the leasing system can be updated to work for farmers, ranchers, rural communities, and all other users of the Rocky Mountain region’s public lands. By tackling long-standing problems — like the growing crisis of orphaned oil and gas wells on public lands — Congress has the opportunity right now to create jobs and protect our air and water for generations to come.”
Today (June 22, 2021), U.S. Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) introduced two important bills to reform the outdated oil and gas leasing program to help ensure it works for farmers and ranchers in the Rocky Mountain region, rather than for oil and gas executives. The Oil and Gas Bonding Reform and Orphaned Well Remediation Act would update decades-old federal bonding requirements and increase funding to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells.
“From outdated bonding rates that fail to hold oil and gas companies accountable for orphaning their wells to a public participation process that all too often silences our communities, the federal oil and gas leasing program is in dire need of reform,” says Rocky Mountain Farmers Union President Dr. Dale McCall. “Gratefully, Senator Bennet just introduced two bills to ensure rural and farming communities across the Rocky Mountain region are not saddled with the costs of cleaning up after oil and gas companies. We are fortunate that this legislation will allow our voices to be heard in decisions made about how our public lands are used and managed. These bills – combined with the Biden Administration’s review of the program – are a meaningful step forward in the right direction.”
The situation is a growing environmental and health threat across the Intermountain West. Taxpayers are on the hook to pay for restoring orphaned wells because of the outdated bonding system. Bennet’s bill includes the Public Engagement Opportunity on Public Land Exploration (PEOPLE) Act of 2021, which would ensure robust public participation in land management decisions by overhauling the process for federal leasing which currently prioritizes the oil and gas industry rather than residents of communities, many of them rural, living near oil and gas leasing and drilling sites.
“We look forward to working with Senator Bennet and his colleagues to ensure these vital steps are taken to stand up for farmers and rural communities,” adds McCall.