How It Works

In the U.S., land and the resources beneath it can be owned by private individuals and corporations or by federal, state, local, and Native American governments. This makes the U.S. different from nearly every other country; in many places oil, gas, coal, and other minerals simply belong to the government, but in the U.S. there is widespread private ownership of these resources.

Learn what governs natural resource extraction in the U.S., how resources result in federal revenue, and what processes ensure accuracy and accountability in this industry.

Natural resource extraction in the U.S. is governed by laws and regulations tied primarily to land ownership and the commodities being extracted.

The U.S. ranks at or near the top worldwide in production of many natural resources. We are first in natural gas and oil, and second in coal and renewables. Created with Sketch.

Who owns natural resources in the U.S.?

Ownership

Private individuals and corporations, as well as federal, state, local, and Native American governments, can own land and the oil, gas, coal, and other minerals found below the surface.

Learn about land and resource ownership

What natural resources are extracted in the U.S.?

Fossil fuels

Fossil fuels are our main source of electricity, and the primary fuel for powering motor vehicles and heating homes.

Learn about oil, gas, and coal

Nonenergy minerals

Nonenergy minerals include base and precious metals, industrial metals, and gemstones, among others.

Learn about nonenergy minerals

Renewables

Renewable energy comes from sources that are not depleted when used. These resources include geothermal, solar, wind, water, and biomass.

Learn about renewable energy

What laws and regulations govern natural resource extraction in the U.S.?

Federal laws and regulations

The legislative branch has passed many laws governing natural resource extraction on federal lands.

Learn about federal laws

Federal reforms

The government reforms laws and regulations by enacting new legislation and proposing new rules for implementation.

Learn about reforms

State laws and regulations

State agencies create regulations and rules about natural resource extraction. Local government agencies also play a role.

Learn about state laws

Native American laws and regulations

Extracting natural resources on Native American land and distributing the associated revenue involves a unique set of processes and stakeholders.

Learn about Native American laws

How are natural resources on Native American land governed?

Ownership and governance

Native American land ownership involves a complex patchwork of titles, restrictions, obligations, statutes, and regulations.

Learn about governance on Native American land

Production

Extracting natural resources on Native American land involves unique processes and multiple stakeholders.

Learn about production on Native American land

Revenue

Natural resources are increasingly a key source of income for many Native American tribes. In 2018, ONRR and OST disbursed $1 billion to tribes and allottees.

Learn about Native American revenues

Economic impact

Extraction affects Native American economies in a number of ways, though effects vary widely depending on the level of extraction on and details of lease agreements.

Learn about economic impact

How do natural resources result in federal revenue?

The production process

Oil and gasFill 1Created with Sketch.

Oil and gas (or natural gas) are fossil fuels that form underground on land and under the ocean. The U.S. is among the world's top producers of oil and gas.

Learn about oil and gas

CoalPage 1Created with Sketch.

Miners extract coal through surface and subsurface mining. Most of the coal produced on federal land in the U.S. is mined in the Powder River Basin of Wyoming.

Learn about coal

Nonenergy mineralsFill 1Created with Sketch.

Gold, copper, and iron are the main sources of nonenergy mineral revenues. The Mining Law of 1872 is the major federal law governing locatable minerals.

Learn about nonenergy minerals

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Renewable energy resources include geothermal, solar, wind, biomass, and hydrokinetic energy.

Learn about renewable energy

Understanding federal revenues

How revenue works

Companies pay the federal government to extract natural resources on federal lands and waters. This revenue is collected by the Office of Natural Resources Revenue.

Learn about how revenue works

Federal revenue by company

See federal non-tax revenues from natural resource extraction on federal land by commodity, revenue type, and company.

See revenue by company

Abandoned Mine Land Reclamation Program

This program uses fees from present-day coal mining companies to reclaim coal mines abandoned before 1977.

Learn about the AML Reclamation Program

Coal Excise Tax

Coal producers pay a federal excise tax, which originated in 1977 with the Black Lung Revenue Act, when they mine coal in the U.S.

Learn about excise tax revenue

Understanding federal disbursements

How disbursements work

The Office of Natural Resources Revenue collects revenue from natural resources extraction on federal lands and waters and distributes that revenue according to federal law. This process is called "disbursement."

Learn about how disbursements work

Land and Water Conservation Fund

When authorized, the Land and Water Conservation Fund receives disbursements from offshore oil and gas revenue to support conservation, outdoor recreation, and the needs of local communities.

Learn about the Land and Water Conservation Fund

Historic Preservation Fund

When authorized, the Historic Preservation Fund receives disbursements from offshore oil and gas revenue to fund the conservation of cultural and historic sites.

Learn about the Historic Preservation Fund

Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA)

The Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (GOMESA) created a revenue-sharing model for gulf states. Four states receive a portion of the revenue from oil and gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.

Learn about GOMESA

How does the U.S. ensure accuracy and accountability in natural resource revenue?

Audits and assurances

Data about revenue from the extractive industries is subject to a number of controls, standards, and regulations.

Learn about audits and assurances

Reconciliation

During the reconciliation process, company reports of payments are compared to government records of revenue received.

Learn about reconciliation