The Latest on royalties paid by U.S. energy firms for extracting gas from public land (all times local):
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A Trump administration panel is recommending a change in the way energy companies calculate how much money they owe taxpayers for pumping natural gas from public lands.
The U.S. Interior Department's Royalty Policy Committee agreed on the recommendation Thursday after clearing up an apparent misunderstanding over how much leeway companies would have in determining their bill.
Environmentalists and taxpayer advocates say a draft version of the plan would have allowed companies virtually a free hand in calculating the royalties.
Committee members say that isn't their intent. They say they are recommending that energy companies be given a choice between two formulas, both set by the government.
The recommendation will be sent to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who will decide whether to begin the formal process of changing the rules.
A Trump administration advisory committee has delayed a decision on a proposal to speed up the permitting process for some oil and gas wells on public lands.
The Interior Department's Royalty Policy Committee decided Thursday to wait until a January meeting to decide whether to recommend the change to Congress.
The proposal would automatically approve drilling permits in some situations unless U.S. land managers object within 45 days.
Proponents say it would first be tested in a pilot project and would be used only for wells with low environmental risk where similar wells have already been allowed.
Opponents say it could short-circuit the review of environmental risks and put too much power in the hands of energy companies.
The committee plans to discuss another proposal Thursday that would change the way energy companies calculate how much money they owe for extracting natural gas from public lands.
Environmentalists and other advocates are urging a Trump administration advisory committee to reject two proposed changes to oil and gas drilling on public land, saying they could short-change taxpayers and turn over too much power to the industry.
Others who spoke to the Interior Department's Royalty Policy Committee on Thursday accused the panel of being dominated by industry representatives and putting corporate interests ahead of the public good.
Committee members didn't directly respond to the criticism, but Interior Department spokeswoman Faith Vander Voort has defended the panel's makeup as balanced.
The committee is meeting in suburban Denver.
Later Thursday, the panel will consider a change in the way energy companies calculate how much money they owe for extracting natural gas from public lands and a proposal to speed up the process for getting drilling permits.
A Trump administration committee is meeting in Colorado to consider a change in the way energy companies calculate how much money they owe for extracting and selling publicly owned natural gas.
The U.S. Interior Department's Royalty Policy Committee will meet in suburban Denver Thursday.
Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke formed the panel to recommend ways to remove barriers to getting coal, oil and gas from public land while ensuring taxpayers get fair prices.
Supporters say changing royalty payments calculations would standardize and simplify the process.
Opponents say a loophole in the proposal could let energy companies decide how much to pay, and the public could get short-changed.
The committee will also consider a proposal to speed up the process drill permits on public land.