Nearly 749,000 Acres of Your Public Lands Were Leased for Oil and Gas Drilling Last Year

Feb 2, 2015

By Center for Western Priorities

Oil and gas development is one of the many uses of our American public lands, and the revenue that comes from its production is one of the country’s largest sources of non-tax revenue.

But it can be hard to find out how many acres are being leased to companies every year, which companies are paying to lease national public lands, and which companies are buying up the most acres.

That’s why we’ve created a new Public Lands Oil and Gas Lease Tracker. We analyzed Bureau of Land Management data, summarizing each oil and gas lease sale held in seven Western states during 2014.

Here are the key results, and you can see this data broken out for each of the seven Western states here:

  • 748,764 acres of American public lands were leased across the country in 2014
  • 606,722 of these acres of public lands were leased for oil and gas drilling in seven Western states
  • 523,850 acres of public land were offered for lease but went unsold in seven Western states
  • Liberty Petroleum, American General Energy Exploration, and Ten Point Energy purchased the most acres of public lands in seven Western states

Perhaps most surprisingly, more than 15 percent of the acres—94,517 acres altogether—were sold to companies at the “minimum bid,” which is a mere $2.00 per acre. This means that oil and gas companies were able to buy almost 100,000 acres of our public lands for less than the cost of a Big Mac.

This is only one of the ways that oil and gas companies are receiving a sweetheart deal on our public lands. They also pay a remarkably low 12.5 percent royalty rate to American taxpayers. This is significantly lower than the royalty rate of Western states (typically 16.67 percent-18.75 percent) and the royalty rate for offshore drilling (18.75 percent).

Companies are also allowed to waste natural gas into the air without paying royalties, can rent an acre of public lands for a year less than a cup of coffee, and do not pay the costs of their own inspections.

You can get find out more about these sweetheart deals by visiting CWP’s “Fair Share” campaign website, which just launched to ensure that taxpayers receive a fair share from oil and gas development on our public lands.