Today, it broke that House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Rob Bishop is circulating a letter to the Department of Interior that makes some unfounded accusations about the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) oil and gas leasing program. In particular, Rep. Bishop is displeased about the cancellation of a couple of oil and gas lease sales—and is making unfounded claims about the cause.
Below, we’ve fact-checked Rep. Bishop’s letter. The bottom line is that not even industry is showing a real interest in purchasing leases on public lands at this time, particularly with the current oversupply in the oil market. So if that’s the case—who is Rep. Bishop trying to help?
Here’s what’s really happening on our western public lands:
Low oil process are driving down interest in leasing public lands. Companies are simply not submitting applications to drill for oil in public lands, because they cannot sell oil at a profitable price. In fact, the BLM recently canceled sales in New Mexico and Montana for exactly this reason. At other times, the BLM has postponed—not cancelled—lease sales, and many of them have already been rescheduled.
The BLM has leased thousands of acres to oil companies for development, but these companies haven’t drilled on them. Despite Congressman Bishop’s claim that a pattern of failing to lease public lands for oil and gas development is emerging, industry actually has millions of acres under lease. Yet they’ve only developed about a third of them—a mere 12.7 million—and have not drilled nearly 6,000 permitted wells.
Congressman Bishop is dead wrong when he says “BLM is not obligated to allow the general public to attend sales.” The BLM is absolutely required by federal law to allow the public to attend lease sales, and it’s a critical part of keeping the process open and transparent.