2017-11-21Donald Trump claims to have an “America First” energy plan. His administration’s actions over the past 10 months have made it clear that what he truly puts first are the interests of oil, gas and coal executives. Everyday Americans and our iconic American landscapes come last, if he considers them at all. Republicans used to label their policies “energy independence” and now call it “energy dominance,” but it looks more like the ransacking of our public lands and the fleecing of American taxpayers.

The public wants a smarter way forward – an energy strategy that prioritizes renewables, takes climate change seriously, and returns balance to how we manage our public lands. That’s why 17 of my colleagues and I just introduced the “Sustainable Energy Development Reform Act“, a bill designed to benefit everyday citizens instead of lining industry pockets. It offers a way forward for our nation’s energy development that balances our need for power with the health, environmental and economic interests of working people.

For years, companies have reaped outrageous profits from the extraction of natural resources that belong to all Americans. The royalty rates, rental charges, and other fees associated with development have not kept pace with inflation, let alone the environmental and social costs of mining and drilling. Polluters don’t just enjoy amazing financial benefits from working on public lands. They take advantage of huge regulatory loopholes in our environmental laws, including several that Republicans in Congress gave them in the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Oil and gas companies already hold nearly 8,000 approved permits they’re not using. They don’t need more handouts or weaker leasing standards.

The Sustainable Energy Development Reform Act takes a more realistic approach. It makes sure that oil, gas and coal companies don’t enjoy more benefits on public land than hunters, fishers, campers, and any other users of public land. It makes fossil fuel companies pay a fair amount to drill or mine, makes overdue reforms to drilling safety standards, closes environmental loopholes, and requires the federal government to take climate change seriously and plan for it, not ignore it. It protects the health of people living near fossil fuel operations by restricting resulting pollution and encourages the development of renewable energy. In short, the act views our treasured natural landscape as a resource in its own right, to be managed carefully and protectively, and not simply as a cash cow to be exploited or dominated for unsustainable short-term profits.