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Despite Oil Glut, Leasing Continues on Nevada's Public Lands

A right-leaning conservation group says oil and gas leases on public lands in Nevada and other states should be suspended this year to preserve taxpayer assets. (Bureau of Land Management)
A right-leaning conservation group says oil and gas leases on public lands in Nevada and other states should be suspended this year to preserve taxpayer assets. (Bureau of Land Management)
May 8, 2020

LAS VEGAS, Nev. - The historic decline in demand for fossil fuels has a right-leaning conservation group wondering why the Trump administration keeps pushing to lease public lands for oil and gas development.

The new coronavirus pandemic has helped tank prices, which means companies can't sell oil and have run out of places to store it. David Jenkins, president of Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship, says most lease sales are going for either the minimum bid amount or $2 or less per acre.

He believes it's "fiscal lunacy" to hold oil and gas auctions right now because the government is essentially "leasing away" its assets.

"The massive leasing in Nevada always has baffled me because Nevada - by its very nature, geologically - has no oil and gas reserves," says Jenkins. "Yet more than 2 million acres since this administration came into office in Nevada has been put up for lease."

Energy dominance has been a theme of the Trump administration, but the conservation group wants oil and gas leasing on public lands suspended through at least the end of 2020 or until American taxpayers are guaranteed a fair financial return.

Nevada has almost 48 million acres of public land, stretching over 70% of the state, but its complicated geology means there currently are only 120 producing wells. Jenkins says the administration needs to treat public lands as public assets.

"They don't recognize the other economic drivers that are so important to the West," says Jenkins. "Tourism, outdoor recreation, wildlife management, water supply - all those things are critical and they're all supported by our public lands."

Jenkins adds that a report from the Government Accountability Office found that oil and gas companies were sitting on nearly 10,000 unused permits to drill as of the end of fiscal year 2019.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - NV