FACT CHECK: BLM Statistics Confirm Oil Companies Have Plenty of Access on Public Lands

Jan 6, 2015

By Center for Western Priorities

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has just issued its annual review of oil and gas drilling statistics on national public lands. And like clockwork, oil industry lobbyists took the opportunity to spread the myth that the federal government is stymieing oil and gas production.


According to the Western Energy Alliance, federal policies are stymieing the domestic energy boom (Greenwire, 1/6/2015).


Oil and gas companies have more access to national public lands than they can currently utilize.

  • High oil prices and low natural gas prices have driven America’s oil boom, with companies drilling the most profitable and best oil reserves. By a coincidence of geology, those reserves happen to fall primarily under private lands, not public lands. In fact, in the Western U.S. 89 percent of all shale oil plays lie under nonfederal lands, with only 11 percent lying under federally managed lands (Center for Western Priorities, 3/5/2013).
  • Oil and gas companies are sitting on thousands of drilling permits and millions of unused acres. Oil and gas companies are currently idling 5,919 unused drilling permits. At the same time, oil and gas companies currently hold 34.6 million acres of national public lands, but are only producing on 12.7 million acres. That means that oil and gas companies are sitting on nearly 22 million acres of national public lands – which amounts to over 63 percent of all leased acres (Bureau of Land Management, 9/30/2014).