Taxpayer, conservation groups pressure U.S. to halt drilling auctions

By Nichola Groom (Reuters) - U.S. taxpayer and conservation groups on Tuesday urged the Trump administration to halt plans to sell oil and gas leases on more than 300,000 acres (120,000 hectares) of public lands this month after a sale in Nevada drew mostly minimum bids from a weakened drilling industry

Reuters September 09, 2020 00:06:05 IST
Taxpayer, conservation groups pressure U.S. to halt drilling auctions

Taxpayer conservation groups pressure US to halt drilling auctions

By Nichola Groom

(Reuters) - U.S. taxpayer and conservation groups on Tuesday urged the Trump administration to halt plans to sell oil and gas leases on more than 300,000 acres (120,000 hectares) of public lands this month after a sale in Nevada drew mostly minimum bids from a weakened drilling industry.

The small Nevada auction was the first of six sales the U.S. Bureau of Land Management will hold this month as it resumes its leasing program following a five-month pause due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Of the 11 parcels offered on Tuesday, seven sold for the minimum bid of $2 an acre. The sale of more than 15,000 acres raised about $63,000 in total bids, according to results posted on the online auction website EnergyNet.

Oil and gas drilling on public lands is a key part of the Trump administration's efforts to boost domestic energy production. Joe Biden, who is challenging President Donald Trump in the November election, has vowed to ban new drilling permits on federal lands and waters.

BLM will hold sales later in the month in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, Utah and several other states. Critics said they are unlikely to generate fair returns for taxpayers because the oil and gas industry is struggling with sharply lower prices and demand.

"Continuing this leasing binge is nothing short of fiscal lunacy and it represents a gross mismanagement of our nation's public lands," Dave Jenkins, president of conservation group Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, said on a conference call with reporters.

Jenkins' group and federal budget watchdog organization Taxpayers for Common Sense and the National Wildlife Federation are urging Interior Secretary David Bernhardt to cancel the sales, which come on the heels of a large federal auction in New Mexico https://www.reuters.com/article/us-usa-energy-new-mexico/u-s-oil-and-gas-auction-draws-tepid-bidding-from-weakened-drillers-idUSKBN25N332 last month that attracted far less interest than other recent sales in the state.

BLM officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Nichola Groom; Editing by Tom Brown, Richard Chang and Marguerita Choy)

This story has not been edited by Firstpost staff and is generated by auto-feed.

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