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Interior pushes back Trump-era reforms on oil, natural gas royalty and migratory bird rules

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In the ongoing machinations to scuttle the rules of the Trump era, the Home Office is removing regulations put in place last year, including rules that wiped out millions in revenue from fossil fuel extraction .

In early January, the Trump administration finalized an overhaul of Obama-era royalty reforms, known as the 2020 Valuation Reform and Civil Sanctions Rule. The final rule changed the way the Interior’s Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) assesses royalties for oil and gas produced and coal produced from federal and Indian leases. It also changed the way civil penalties for violations would be assessed.

However, the Interior, which signaled in June that it planned to revamp the overhaul, said on Tuesday it would withdraw the rule. To justify the return to Obama-era rules, the ONRR pointed to “flaws” in the Trump-era revisions, which included a “lack of reasoned explanations for many amendments.”

The move “will restore the balance of US public lands and waters and ensure that companies pay their fair share to the US public,” interior officials said. “The net impact of the withdrawal of the 2020 rule is an estimated annual increase of $ 64 million in royalty collections over what would have been achieved if the 2020 rule had taken effect.”

Home Secretary Deb Haaland said the action “would help advance our efforts to restore balance to our public lands and waters and ensure that state governments receive the tax revenues they are owed”.

As of Tuesday (September 28), payers and tenants were required to pay and report under the “regulatory regime in effect preceding the 2020 rule, which ensures that the United States will receive fair compensation for production on the land. public ”.

ONRR collects an average of $ 10 billion in revenue each year, considered one of the federal government’s largest sources of non-tax revenue.

For birds

In related news, the Interior announced on Wednesday a series of actions revoking Trump-era changes to the Migratory Birds Treaty Act (MBTA). The US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) finalized a new rule put in place in early January that limited the scope of the MBTA.

In addition, the USFWS simultaneously plans to publicly release a Notice of Proposed Regulations to solicit comments and information from the public to help develop proposed regulations to allow the incidental take of migratory birds.

“The Migratory Bird Treaty Act, one of our first environmental laws, represents more than 100 years of America’s commitment to protect migratory birds and restore declining bird populations,” Haaland said. “The impacts of climate change coupled with habitat loss and degradation are pushing more and more wildlife to the brink. Today, we are announcing critical steps to ensure the Act can help conserve birds today and in the future. “

The Trump administration’s rule to limit the scope of the MBTA “has raised significant concerns from the public and international treaty partners and created many legal challenges,” interior officials noted.

“Our next step will be to create a common sense approach to regulating the incidental take of migratory birds that both conserves birds and provides regulatory certainty to industry and stakeholders,” said the secretary. Assistant for Fishing, Wildlife and Parks Shannon Estenoz.

Over the past 50 years, North America’s bird population has declined by about three billion, according to the USFWS. “Many of the 1,093 bird species protected under the MBTA are experiencing population declines due to increased threats across the continent. “

The Home Office recently released the Birds of Conservation Concern 2021 report, listing 269 species considered to be “most in need of conservation attention”.

The USFWS is also preparing a draft environmental impact statement under the National Environmental Policy Act to initiate a public scoping process to identify issues and share information with stakeholders.

The MBTA’s final revocation rule is to take effect 60 days after it is posted in the Federal Register, now scheduled for Monday (October 4).

In response, the American Exploration and Production Council (AXPC) said the Trump rule was “protective of migratory birds without heavy or excessive regulation.” It is important to develop a common sense approach to regulating the incidental take of migratory birds, but the proposed rules could create additional regulatory uncertainty and lead to operational burdens that are not commensurate with the protection of bird species …

“Operators follow several existing regulations to protect migratory birds and use a myriad of best management practices to eliminate or minimize interactions between migratory birds and facilities. “


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