Environews: How oil companies lock up public lands

By Amy Brunvand

A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released in June found that oil and gas companies are locking up millions of acres of public lands in the Western United States by holding onto unused mineral leases.

In Utah alone, more than 1 million acres of public lands are held under “suspended” leases, which never expire, even though energy companies are not paying rent or royalties.

The suspended leases amount to a massive taxpayer subsidy for energy developers. A 2015 report from the Wilderness Society calculated that since the 1960s, suspended leases have cost taxpayers over $82 million in lost rents alone.

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) grants suspensions without any opportunity for public comment, and once granted they are never reviewed.

The existence of suspended leases is often used to justify anti-conservation land use planning. Despite the surfeit of stockpiled energy leases, Republicans in the U.S. Congress currently have four bills in committee to loosen environmental regulations and “streamline” the permit process, encouraging energy companies to lock up even more public land.

Oil & Gas Lease Management (GAO, 2018): bit.ly/2K2txoN/ Land Hoarders: How Stockpiling Leases is Costing Taxpayers (TWS, 2015): bit.ly/2LZTS7a

This article was originally published on July 5, 2018.