Community, Tribal, and Faith Leaders Protest DOI Royalty Policy Committee in Albuquerque

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018
Contact: Camilla Feibelman, camilla.feibelman@sierraclub.org, 505.715.8388

Community, Tribal, and Faith Leaders Protest DOI Royalty Policy Committee in Albuquerque

Albuquerque, NM – Community, religious, and Tribal leaders rallied in Albuquerque Wednesday morning outside of the Interior Department’s industry-packed Royalty Policy Committee (RPC) meeting to protest further attempts to reduce royalty rates for extraction of fossil fuels on public lands and the Trump Administration’s prioritization of industry voices over the public good.

“Secretary Zinke has stacked the Royalties Policy Committee with industry executives and mining school ‘yes men.’  That may work in Washington, but here in New Mexico, we live every day with the consequences of federal leases sold for a pittance, royalties cut or wasted, public voices ignored. Mr. Zinke’s hand-picked Royalties Policy Committee is not welcome here,” Don Schreiber, a rancher from the Four Corners area, remarked.

Rally participants served coffee to attendees, calling attention to current leases held by oil and gas companies for rates less than the cost of a cup of coffee on public lands.

“Our thousands of members throughout New Mexico and the country have tried again and again to participate meaningfully in public processes to protect our public lands and make sure that private interests on those lands aren’t favored over clean air and water. We participated in rule making on royalties for coal extract from public lands – the rules were rolled back. We’ve participated again and again in rule making to stop oil and gas waste and pollution on public lands – and those rules were rolled back. The message to the public is that only fossil fuel voices count,” said Camilla Feibelman, Director of the Rio Grande Chapter of the Sierra Club.

“Public lands belong to ALL Americans and we deserve the opportunity to voice our concerns about protecting land, our health, and our climate. With global warming driving 99% of New Mexico into drought and wildfires burning 36,000 acres in Ute park, the time has come to stop leasing our public lands for a pittance to the oil and gas companies whose dirty energy development is ruining the climate, the land, the water and our local communities,” said Tom Solomon and Jim Mackenzie of 350 New Mexico.

In its short history, the RPC has proposed rock-bottom royalty rates and leasing our public lands for absurdly low prices. At the same time Secretary Zinke has fulfilled the wishes of industry leaders by overseeing the largest-ever elimination of public-lands protections in American history and revoking requirements aimed at curbing the waste of polluting methane. Secretary Zinke and his RPC have shown a pattern of consistently shutting out the American public’s concerns and prioritizing the voices and profits of industry executives above all else.

“Secretary Zinke is not only selling off our public lands, but also selling our future by lowering the royalties they must pay. It is encouraging the rest of us to burn our future and keep us addicted to fossil fuels,” said Retired US Navy Commander, Environmental Engineer, and local Mom Athena Christodoulou.

“The Royalty Policy Committee should listen to the voices of the people who are not at this table, both in considering policies that would exclude the public from decisions about oil and gas development on our public lands and in their process for deliberating,” said Pamela Pride Eaton, Senior Advisor for the Wilderness Society’s Energy and Climate Campaign. “Our public lands are more than colonies for resource development.”

“We hope the committee understood our message and that they listened to really understand [the issues] and not simply respond back. We continue to tell the U.S. Government and the oil and gas industry that they simply take resources from our communities and give nothing back. We reject the current proposal for reducing royalties.” said Sam Sage of Counselor Chapter House of the Navajo Nation.

Attendees concluded the event by walking silently in to the public-comment session of the meeting wearing shirts that read “Not An Industry Insider”. The Committee had only set aside 30 minutes for the public. However, due to the large amount of community members interested in speaking, the public comment period was extended by an additional hour.

Featured image by Niko Dellios

Community, Tribal, and Faith Leaders Protest DOI Royalty Policy Committee in Albuquerque