U.S. holding slew of new drilling lease sales despite
oil market slump
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[March 24, 2020] By
(Reuters) - The Trump administration is
moving ahead with oil and gas lease sales in four Western states
beginning on Tuesday, bucking criticism from taxpayer advocates who say
the auctions should be postponed because of a meltdown in energy prices.
The Bureau of Land Management is offering more than 210,000 acres
(85,000 hectares) for leasing via online auctions in Wyoming, Nevada and
Montana on Tuesday, and Colorado on Thursday.
The largest sale is for 105 parcels covering 118,292 acres (47,871
hectares) in Wyoming, the top U.S. state for gas production on federal
lands and the second-biggest for oil production, according to the U.S.
Energy Information Administration.
In Nevada, BLM will offer 45 parcels covering 70,110 acres (28,372
hectares) and in Montana it will auction eight parcels covering 5,180
acres (2,100 hectares). The Colorado sale is for 20 parcels on 18,960
acres (7,670 hectares).
Drilling on federal lands is a crucial part of President Donald Trump's
"energy dominance" agenda to maximize domestic production of fossil
fuels. But the industry is in crisis as countries including the United
States take unprecedented steps to contain the coronavirus pandemic that
has curbed demand for products such as gasoline and jet fuel.
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Pump jacks operate in front of a drilling rig in an oil field in
Midland, Texas U.S. August 22, 2018. Picture taken August 22, 2018.
REUTERS/Nick Oxford/File Photo
U.S. oil prices have dropped roughly half since the middle of February to about
$24 a barrel.
Last week, the United States held an auction for oil and gas leases in the Gulf
of Mexico that generated the lowest total of high bids for any domestic offshore
auction since 2016. Earlier this month, BLM held a lease sale in Utah that
received mostly minimum bids of $2 an acre.
"In this environment, it is impossible for the American taxpayer to expect
anywhere near a fair return on oil and gas leases," Taxpayers for Common Sense,
a federal budget watchdog organization, and Conservatives for Responsible
Stewardship, a non-profit conservation group, said in a joint statement last
Department of Interior spokesman Conner Swanson did not respond to a request for
comment on Monday. Last week, he said lease sales were "being evaluated on a
BLM is a division of the Interior Department.
(Reporting by Nichola Groom in Los Angeles; Editing by Peter Cooney)
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