House bill reintroduced to recover lost offshore royalties

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 28 -- Two US House members reintroduced legislation that they said could recover as much as $54 billion in federal offshore royalty payments that were mistakenly exempt in the late 1990s.

The measure would require producers that hold such leases to renegotiate terms before being able to bid on newly offered tracts. The leases originally were issued without a requirement to pay federal royalties to stimulate Gulf of Mexico deepwater exploration and development. They were erroneously exempted from royalty payments when price thresholds were omitted from 1996 to 2000.

“Instead of oil companies drilling for free on public land, we should be drilling for deficit dollars by fixing this taxpayer rip-off,” said Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), who chairs the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming. “Half of our trade deficit in 2008 was from buying foreign oil, and $54 billion of our national budget deficit could be solved by keeping oil companies honest.”

The bill’s cosponsor, Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), who co-chairs the bipartisan Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Caucus, said that the bill would close what he termed a “costly, special interest loophole.”

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