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Reuters: Democrat Katie Porter says to target Big Oil in new role as natural resources chair

Democrat Katie Porter says to target Big Oil in new role as natural resources chair.

U.S. Representative Katie Porter, who has earned a reputation for grilling bank and drug company executives during Congressional hearings, told Reuters she will focus on a new target in her new role as chair of the House Natural Resources Oversight Committee: Big Oil.

The position will make the California Democrat a key player in U.S. energy policy as President Joe Biden puts curbs on federal fossil fuel development at the center of a plan to fight climate change.

Biden paused new federal oil and gas leases, source of about a quarter of U.S. petroleum production, shortly after taking office in a move widely seen as a first step toward delivering on his campaign promise of a permanent ban.

Porter is one of several Democratic lawmakers that introduced a set of bills this week to reform federal oil and gas leasing regulations, including by raising royalty rates for the first time in a century - proposals that could impact existing leases even if new leases are eventually phased out.


“How can things not have gone up as I see the cost of my everyday expenses -- healthcare, childcare, college, housing -- all go up?” Porter said. “This is not a coincidence. This takes intense lobbying work by the fossil fuel industry to prevent these changes.”

Porter introduced a bill that would boost the amount oil companies must pay on their federal onshore production to 18.75% from 12%, a rate that has not changed since 1920, and also increase minimum bids in lease auctions to $5 per acre from $2.

“I confess when I first heard the term ‘oil and gas royalty rates’ I didn’t immediately feel a deep emotional sort of reaction to fighting the issue. But as I began to understand what’s really at stake, which is oil and gas companies taking our public resources at pennies on the dollar, I began to feel outraged,” she said.


A second-term Congresswoman from California, Porter has become a social media sensation after her rapid-fire grilling of powerful executives over issues like compensation and drugs pricing.

She is perhaps best known for scrawling on what Twitter dubbed her “whiteboard of truth” during committee meetings -a prop she will use in her new oversight role.

Porter said that as a professor who taught classes about bankruptcy, she enjoys teaching esoteric policy and making it real for people.

“Our public lands are not a speculative investment,” she said. “They are a national treasure.”