The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), an agency within the Department of the Interior, held three federal oil and gas lease sales this week, the second of which took place in Wyoming. The BLM conducts quarterly oil and lease sales throughout the western United States, allowing private industry to lease federal lands for oil and gas development. The competitive auction occurred in Wyoming over December 10 and 11.
In its fifth lease sale in Wyoming this year, the BLM offered a total of 160 parcels of federal land made up of over 170,000 acres. While oil and gas companies bid on 123,000 of the available acres, over 60 percent sold for $10 per acre or less.
Over 45,000 acres received a bid of just $2 per acre, the minimum BLM can legally accept, a level that was set over 30 years ago. Unfortunately for taxpayers, BLM receives minimum bids all too often, with 331 parcels receiving minimum bids this year alone.
In total, the sale generated $10.6 million dollars in high bids, averaging $86 per acre. That significantly lags the average bids from other sales in 2019 and previous years. Before this week’s sale, companies in Wyoming had been bidding just shy of $120 per acre on average in 2019, making this sale’s average bid 28 percent lower than the previous four sales, and 80 percent lower than the rate two years ago. In 2017, federal leases in Wyoming sold for $440 per acre on average, five times more than this week’s lease sale.
Low bids from BLM lease sales are a systemic problem. The leasing system is broken, and taxpayer are receiving pennies on the dollar for valuable and limited federal natural resources. Stay tuned as we continue to track federal oil and gas lease sales.