DENVER, January 25, 2021 — The Center for Western Priorities today released a report assessing the impacts of the Trump administration’s four-year efforts to enact a drill-everywhere “Energy Dominance” agenda on our nation’s public lands, slashing public health and environmental safeguards to benefit the oil and gas industry.

The report, titled “The Dismal Legacy of Trump’s ‘Energy Dominance’ Agenda,” recommends the Biden administration order a long-term pause on future oil leases to give the Interior Department time to reform the leasing program in a way that accounts for the climate impacts of oil and gas drilling and ensures taxpayers get a fair return from publicly-owned resources.

“Dismal Legacy” shows how the Trump administration magnified pre-existing problems in the oil and gas system, increasing waste of public resources and the risk of orphaned wells, benefitting companies instead of taxpayers, devastating sensitive lands, and marginalizing the public. Led by former oil lobbyist Interior Secretary David Bernhardt, the Trump administration took full advantage of an outdated legal system that allows oil and gas companies to identify where they want to drill, easily obtain drilling permits, and pay minuscule royalties to taxpayers for extracting publicly-owned oil and gas.

The Center for Western Priorities released the following statement from Policy Director Jesse Prentice-Dunn:

“Led by a literal oil lobbyist, the Trump Interior Department’s energy dominance agenda turned out to be exactly what you would expect. Interior Secretary Bernhardt exploited flaws within the outdated system governing drilling on public lands, all for the benefit of his former oil industry clients. But despite trying to ram through drilling projects across the country, Bernhardt could not change the one factor that is driving the oil industry’s decline—the price of oil. His actions and the failure of energy dominance over the past four years highlight the desperate need for reform in our public lands oil and gas system.

“The Trump administration irresponsibly offered drilling leases on the doorstep of national parks, next to sacred Native American landscapes, and in critical wildlife habitat, all while allowing oil and gas companies to pay outdated royalty rates that cheat taxpayers out of billions in revenue.”

The “Dismal Legacy” report offers suggestions for comprehensively reforming the leasing system, including eliminating the oil and gas industry’s sweetheart deals, protecting taxpayers from orphaned well liabilities, and restoring the important role of the public, Native American tribes, and other stakeholders in the leasing process.


  • Report: The Drilling and Mining Industry Wishlist (Center for Western Priorities)
  • Blog: Sensitive public lands are not the place for oil leasing (Westwise)
  • Blog: Inside Interior Secretary David Bernhardt’s Wildly Destructive Track Record (Westwise)

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