Noncompetitive Oil and Gas Leasing on Public Lands Must End


Noncompetitive Oil and Gas Leasing on Public Lands Must End

On March 29, 2022 the National Wildlife Federation issued an important report that documents wasted taxpayer dollars from a federal practice known as noncompetitive oil and gas leasing of federally managed public lands. (see link at end of blog.) A second important consequence of noncompetitive leasing is that such parcels become unavailable for other uses including habitat management and restoration or recreation. Ending this practice will allow expanded opportunities for wildlife conservation, water quality management and outdoor recreation.

Context of noncompetitive lease sales in Colorado: The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) conducts quarterly oil and gas leasing auctions of certain parcels for oil and gas exploration and development. CWF submits comments during each of these processes to urge deferral of parcels that are in mule deer and elk and other big game migration corridors, winter concentration areas and severe winter range, and in priority greater sage grouse management areas.  Where noncompetitive leasing comes in is that parcels that are offered at the auction but are unsold may be sold afterwards for as little as $1.50 per acre. Forty percent of all oil and gas leases are sold noncompetitively at rock bottom prices. The Report reveals that in Colorado, 96 noncompetitive leases have been issued on 59,201 acres over several years. Of these leases, 11 overlap greater sage-grouse habitat including 1,467 acres of priority greater sage grouse management habitat.

This Report references the GAO report, November 2020, showing that almost all of these noncompetitively leased lands remain tied up under lease without any oil and gas development. They are almost always located in areas with low or no oil and gas development potential. Areas with low or no potential that have been offered in  past lease sales in Colorado include important bighorn sheep habitat and habitats for species of greatest conservation need designated in the Colorado State Wildlife Action Plan. See, for example the Pawnee National Grasslands case study in the NWF Report. Of the 96 noncompetitive leases in Colorado, 53 are on lands that have been identified as low potential for oil and gas development. Fortunately, in the upcoming June 2022 Colorado oil and gas lease sale, BLM proposes to remove all parcels with low or no oil and gas development potential. We applaud this proposed change.

Ending the practice of noncompetitive leasing will require federal legislation. Senator John Hickenlooper introduced the COMPETES Act last year to end these public lands giveaways. COMPETES ACT bill   This bill must move forward! Stay tuned.

Here is the link to the NWF Report