Oil and gas production from federal lands and waters is vital to meeting the nation's energy needs. As such, oil and gas companies lease federal lands and waters and pay royalties to the federal government based on a percentage of the oil and gas that they produce. The Minerals Management Service (MMS), an agency in the Department of the Interior, is responsible for collecting royalties from these leases. In order to promote oil and gas production, the federal government at times and in specific cases has provided "royalty relief," waiving or reducing the royalties that companies must pay. However, as production from these leases grows and oil and gas prices have risen since a major 1995 royalty relief act, questions have emerged about the financial impacts of royalty relief. Based on our work to date, GAO's statement addresses (1) the likely fiscal impacts of royalty relief on leases issued under the Outer Continental Shelf Deep Water Royalty Relief Act of 1995 and (2) other authority for granting royalty relief that could further impact future royalty revenue. To address these issues our ongoing work has included, among other things, analyses of key production data maintained by MMS; and reviews of appropriate portions of the Outer Continental Shelf Deep Water Royalty Relief Act of 1995, the Energy Policy Act of 2005, and Interior's regulations on royalty relief.
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