Most Oil and Gas Leases on Public Land Are Not Productive

Almost 75 percent of the 40 million acres of public land leased for oil and gas development in the U.S. are not producing any oil or gas, but the Bush administration is nonetheless pushing relentlessly to open more land for leasing. Peter Morton, a resource economist with the Wilderness Society, says it’s “a land grab, pure and simple.” Companies count their public-land holdings — sometimes leased for only $2 or $3 a year per acre, in 10-year increments — as assets, which can attract investment and boost their bottom line. Even more troubling, say enviros, is the fact that an ever-smaller group of companies controls an ever-larger amount of that land. Since 1997, six companies have exceeded the legal limit of 246,080 acres in public-land leases, but the Bureau of Land Management has neglected to enforce the limit. Since 1999, the top 25 holders of oil and gas leases on public land have given 86 percent of their $8.2 million in political contributions to the Republican Party.