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Report: Calif. Public Lands Stockpiled by Oil Companies

Oil flaring at a plant in Bakersfield. A new report finds millions of acres of public land in the West are tied up in unused oil and gas land leases. (Chris Jordan-Block/Earthjustice)
Oil flaring at a plant in Bakersfield. A new report finds millions of acres of public land in the West are tied up in unused oil and gas land leases. (Chris Jordan-Block/Earthjustice)
December 15, 2015

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Oil and gas companies are stockpiling leases on public land in California, sometimes for many years, without developing it – or paying rent on it – according to a report out today from the Wilderness Society.

The authors say that's a problem because the land can't be leased to another company or used for anything else to benefit the public.

Nada Culver, senior director for agency policy with The Wilderness Society, says taxpayers are losing out on $80 million, just in rental fees on suspended leases across the West.

"That doesn't look at what could have been generated in royalties, if those were developed oil and gas, rent and other payments if they were developed for wind or solar, or the benefit to local communities, and outfitters and others, if they were managed for recreation or conservation," she points out.

The report says California has more than 22,000 acres tied up in undeveloped leases, but the problem is much bigger, 3.25 million acres, in at least 1,000 suspended leases nationwide.

Culver says short-term suspensions on leases are legitimate for an environmental review or a drilling permit that's been unavoidably delayed. But the report found that companies are improperly stockpiling unused leases, and the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) isn't stopping them.

"Unfortunately, there is no mechanism really, for ensuring that those suspensions end,” she says. “We saw numerous situations where the reasons for the suspension ended, but the suspension didn't end – often for years and years and years. And some, they still haven't ended at all."

The report calls on the federal government to do an investigation and asks the BLM to review any long-term suspended leases.



Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - CA