Three watchdog groups have sent a letter to House appropriators urging more oversight of the oil and gas royalties owed to the federal government. Friends of the Earth (FOE), Project on Government Oversight (POGO), and Taxpayers for Common Sense (TCS) sent the House Subcommittee on Interior, Environment, and Related Agencies Appropriations a letter calling on the appropriators to set aside additional funding to hire auditors to oversee what they called the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) troubled oil and gas royalty programs.
DOI made two increases to the offshore royalty rates over the past year. Those rate increases are ridiculous the groups say if effective auditing and enforcement functions are not in place to keep the oil companies honest, who over the past decade have been forced to pay almost $600 million in settlements for shortchanging the government in royalty payments. Since 2000, DOI has cut the number of auditors by 45 or 15.7 percent (from 287 to 242). As the groups say in their letter, "With fewer watchdogs minding the store, oil and gas companies have fewer incentives to pay up."