DENVER—The Center for Western Priorities today released an updated leasing and drilling dashboard that provides an at-a-glance look at data related to oil and gas leasing and production on public lands under the Biden administration. Data included in the dashboard show that, while the Interior Department has yet to initiate its promised rulemaking to reform the broken federal oil and gas program, the Biden administration has continued to approve federal drilling permits to the oil and gas industry and is planning to move forward with many new lease sales in 2023. The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) brought several important changes to the onshore leasing program last year, including the first increase to the royalty rate for new leases in over 100 years and the elimination of the practice of leasing public lands “noncompetitively” for just $1.50/acre. Now, the Biden administration must do its part to write new, durable rules for the federal oil and gas program that will ensure that management of our public lands better serves taxpayers, communities, the environment, waters, and wildlife.
The dashboard includes information related to the public land parcels currently being considered for oil and gas leasing in 2023. Although the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) will no longer allow individuals or companies to submit lease nominations anonymously following the Inflation Reduction Act’s requirement of a new lease nomination filing fee, the Biden administration is still considering offering for lease thousands of acres that were originally nominated anonymously. Data included in the dashboard show that 60 percent of the nearly 490,000 acres of public lands that are currently being evaluated for lease were anonymously nominated.
In order to take the necessary steps to further limit harmful, speculative leasing in the federal oil and gas program, the BLM must commit to not offering for lease any parcels that were nominated before the IRA brought important, long-overdue changes to the federal leasing system. Before holding the eight onshore lease sales that are slated to be held starting in May of this year, the Interior Department must move forward with its rulemaking.
The rulemaking is necessary to both respond to its own 2021 analysis which found significant flaws in the leasing program, and to ensure that any future leasing aligns with the reform provisions of the IRA and the corresponding Instruction Memoranda that BLM issued in November 2022. Interior’s November 2021 report noted, for example, the need for the Department to hold oil and gas companies responsible for posting, up front, the full cost required to clean up the wells they drill on public lands, and to prevent leasing on lands that hold valuable resources for conservation and recreation but little to no value for oil and gas.
For more information about how the federal oil and gas leasing system works, please see the introductory text of the dashboard. This section has been updated to reflect all changes made to the federal leasing system by the Inflation Reduction Act.