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Nevada Public Land Tied Up in Unused Oil, Gas Leases

A new report says oil and gas companies are stockpiling leases on public lands in Nevada without developing them. (Environmental Defense Fund)
A new report says oil and gas companies are stockpiling leases on public lands in Nevada without developing them. (Environmental Defense Fund)
December 15, 2015

LAS VEGAS – The Bureau of Land Management is standing by as thousands of acres of public land in Nevada are tied up in unused oil and gas leases, according to a report from The Wilderness Society.

Researchers found more than 16,000 acres of public land in Nevada, and more than 3 million across the West, aren't benefiting the public at all.

It says companies are stockpiling the leases – then getting suspensions from the BLM, that sometimes last for decades.

Nada Culver, senior director for agency policy with The Wilderness Society, says taxpayers are losing about $80 million just in rental fees.

"And while those leases are in suspension, the operators are not required to pay rent,” she points out. “They don't pay royalties because they're not producing oil and gas. And of major concern to The Wilderness Society, the BLM won't manage the land for any other use."

If the leases were allowed to expire, she explains, the land could be developed for solar or wind, or managed for conservation or recreation.

Legitimate reasons for a suspension of a lease include factors outside a company's control, such as a permit delay or an environmental review.

But Culver says it's improper to suspend a lease just because the company hasn't developed the property.

"That's not how the system is supposed to work, and these are public lands that are supposed to be leased and used for the benefit of all Americans – not just for what might suit the profit margin of one company at a given time," she stresses.

The report calls on the BLM to conduct a thorough review of existing long-term suspended leases. And the authors want the Government Accounting Office to launch its own investigation and recommend improvements to the lease suspension system.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - NV