A new report from the Government Accountability Office found that the Bureau of Land Management’s longstanding practice of noncompetitive leasing has let oil and gas companies lock up millions of acres of public land while taxpayers receive almost nothing in return.
The GAO analysis found that nearly 99% of noncompetitive leases sold between 2003 and 2009 never produced oil during the 10-year primary term of the lease—blocking those public lands from other uses while bringing in just $1.50 an acre for taxpayers. By comparison, more than a quarter of leases that sold in competitive bidding with bonus bids above $100 per acre ended up producing oil and gas during the 10-year lease term.
Those noncompetitive lease practices are in play this week, as the Trump administration rushes to lease more than 4,100 acres in California today. On Tuesday, BLM held a lease sale in Utah that offered nearly 24,000 acres of public land. Just 18 percent of that received a bid, which leaves nearly 20,000 acres still available to oil companies for $1.50 an acre.
A bill to eliminate noncompetitive leasing and modernize lease terms passed the House Natural Resources Committee in September, but has not received a vote in the full House.