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Western Republicans Vote Against Increase in Drilling Royalties

With one exception, every GOP House member from Idaho, Oregon and Washington voted last week to prevent higher royalty fees for oil and gas companies drilling on federal land.

The issue was an amendment, one of dozens, tacked onto  spending bill for the U-S Department of the Interior, offered by New Mexico Republican Steve Pearce. It would have banned the Department from hiking the royalty fees on public land drilling, and even prohibited spending money on planning such a hike.

The federal government gets only 12.5 percent of on-shore oil and gas production, a rate which has not been increased since 1920.

But most states charge higher fees. The royalty fee in Texas, for example, is 25 percent, and even Pearce's home state, New Mexico, charges 18.5 percent for drilling on state land.

Estimates are that if the spending bill and its amendment had passed, it would have cost American taxpayers about $1.25 billion over the next 10 years.

But although the amendment was approved on a near straight party line vote, the spending bill itself did not survive. The House leadership suddenly pulled the bill off the floor because of an imbroglio over allowing confederate flags in federal cemeteries.

Washington Representative Jaime Hererra Buetler was the only GOP House member from Idaho, Oregon and Washington to vote against the ban on higher royalty fees.

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