CASPER, Wyo. — The Wyoming Outdoor Council said on Wednesday, Feb. 24 that some claims about President Joe Biden administration’s moratorium on new oil and gas leases and permits on federal lands and waters have been “exaggerated or incorrect.”
Various Wyoming politicians ranging from Governor Mark Gordon, Sen. John Barrasso, Sen. Cynthia Lummis, Rep. Liz Cheney to Superintendent Jillian Balow and Wyoming Game and Fish Director Brian Nesvik have criticized the moratorium, often calling it a “ban” that could lead to millions of dollars in lost revenue for the state.
The Wyoming Outdoor Council said that Biden’s executive order signed on Jan. 27 included directing the Department of the Interior “to pause oil and gas lease sales to allow for a review of the federal leasing program.”
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“The executive order temporarily pauses new leasing on federal lands,” the Wyoming Outdoor Council sid. “It does not ban development. Drilling and production on existing leases can continue, and new drilling permits may still be approved.”
The Wyoming Outdoor Council added that claims about the hit to Wyoming revenues have been exaggerated.
“The vast majority of state revenue from public lands drilling comes from royalties on production, which the executive order will not impact,” the council said. “In any given year, royalties from existing production provide approximately 90% of the revenue shared with the state from federal public lands oil and gas development.”
The Wyoming Outdoor Council also said that “oil and gas companies have amassed enough leases to continue development for years.” They also said that from 2009-2018, the oil and gas industry “nominated nearly 106 million acres of public lands for leasing, but bid on just 20 percent of the 47.5 million acres that were eventually offered for lease.”
“This drove a dramatic surge in noncompetitive leasing, with companies acquiring parcels at rock-bottom prices,” the council said. “Noncompetitive oil and gas leases almost never enter production or provide a fair return to taxpayers.”
“Companies routinely fail to pay rent on their leases. Over a recent ten-year period, the BLM terminated well over half of all noncompetitive leases issued along with roughly 30 percent of competitive leases.”
The Wyoming Outdoor Council added that the onshore federal oil and gas program “has been on the U.S. Government Accountability Office’s ‘High Risk List; for potential waste and fraud for a decade. It has been nearly
four decades since the program was last reviewed.”
“As of April 2020, 4.8 million acres of public lands leases in Wyoming were idle and not producing any oil or gas,” the council added. “The federal oil and gas program needs reform.”
“Leases are sold under a century-old system that allows anonymous speculators to nominate public lands for leasing, even if the land has little potential for ever producing oil or gas and could be better managed for wildlife habitat, outdoor recreation, historic and cultural protections, or other values. Parcels not bid on at auction can be leased ‘over the counter’ for $1.50/acre.”