Chest-thumping Interior Department claims one success amid a sea of losses

Last week the Interior Department announced the sale of oil and gas leases covering over 50,700 acres in New Mexico’s Permian Basin for $972.5 million. Like a kid in a candy store, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke celebrated the “historic” lease sale, ignoring the reality of his shortsighted agenda: the rush to lease public lands for energy development has produced more failures than successes and left prized protected lands at risk.

Of the 12.7 million acres of oil and gas leases offered by the Bureau of Land Management prior to the New Mexico sale, 11.4 million acres, or nearly 90 percent, did not receive a single bid from the energy industry. Nearly a quarter of the acres leased sold for the minimum bid of $2 per acre — a far cry from New Mexico’s $81,889 per acre bid — generating only minimal revenue for taxpayers.

Of the 77 million acres of offshore leases in the Gulf of Mexico offered in one lease sale last March — a record setting lease sale according to Secretary Zinke — companies bid on just one percent of leases.

And again, of the 10.3 million acres offered for oil leasing in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska by Secretary Zinke’s Interior Department, only seven bids were received, covering less than one percent of available acreage. Another in a long-line of embarrassing results.

“Energy dominance” comes a high cost to communities and America’s conservation lands. In the next four months, the Trump administration will offer 2.9 million acres of America’s public lands to oil and gas companies, including lands on the fringes of our national parks and monuments, prime habitat for the imperiled sage-grouse, and critical big game migration corridors.

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