1999 Scorecard Vote
Companies that drill for oil and gas on public lands pay for the privilege in the form of royalties. Although oil companies are supposed to pay a royalty based on a percentage of gross proceeds, the industry has instead used a "posted price" which can differ by as much as $2 per barrel from the actual daily market price of oil. According to the Department of Interior, oil companies underpay royalties by more than $66 million per year. This has the additional effect of shortchanging the Land and Water Conservation Fund, which allocates a portion of oil royalty revenue to the purchase of important natural places and habitat.
For the past three years, the Interior Department has sought to institute reforms that would create a fair, market-based payment process for oil royalties and make it easier for the government to catch discrepancies in royalty payments. However, members of Congress from oil-producing states have used an array of riders and other legislative tools to prevent the Interior Department from implementing these reforms.
During consideration of the Fiscal Year 2000 Interior Appropriations bill, Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-TX) and Pete Domenici (R-NM) offered an amendment that would impose a moratorium on implementing new rules for oil valuation. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) attempted to block the amendment through a filibuster.
Senate debate on an issue can continue indefinitely without a final vote on passage unless 60 senators vote to invoke "cloture," thereby cutting off debate. Senator Boxer's filibuster lasted for two weeks before proponents of the Hutchison amendment could muster enough senators to cut off debate and allow a vote on the amendment to delay the oil royalty reforms. Had the filibuster continued, the amendment likely would have been withdrawn, and the reforms would have gone into effect.
On September 23, 1999, the Senate voted, 60–39, to end the filibuster by invoking cloture. NO is the pro-environment vote. The Senate then adopted the Hutchison amendment by a 51–47 vote. NO is the pro-environment vote.
The final omnibus appropriations bill included a modified oil royalty reform provision, delaying implementation of the new royalty formula until March 15, 2000.