Tester Introduces Bill Ensuring Taxpayer Dollars for Public Lands Aren’t Wasted
Leasing Market Efficiency Act will end practice that’s taking money from what BLM should be doing – taking care of public lands
Today, Sen. Jon Tester announced he’ll be introducing a bill that will put an end to noncompetitive oil and gas leasing, an outdated and broken practice that is wasting taxpayer money that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) should be using to take care of our public lands.
Dating back a 100 years, noncompetitive oil and gas leasing serves no one’s interest, except perhaps the interest of speculators who are looking to make a quick buck on our public lands. The practice enables companies to buy oil and gas leases off the shelf for $1.50 an acre per year. These are leases that aren’t bid on during the BLM’s regularly scheduled auctions, and they usually are for parcels of land that hold little-to-no oil and gas potential. In good economic times and bad, speculators like to scoop up these bottom-basement leases to pad their portfolios and make their companies look more attractive to investors.
Tell Sen. Steve Daines, or the senators of whichever state you live in, to support the
Leasing Market Efficiency Act.
Noncompetitive leasing creates a situation in which the BLM is bombarded with thousands of acres of oil and gas leases to process and monitor, and that situation siphons time, resources, and taxpayer money away from what the BLM is supposed to be doing – taking care of our public lands while adhering to a multiple-use mandate.
Noncompetitive leasing takes money away from maintaining trails and trailheads, improving fish and wildlife habitat, creating and maintaining river access, monitoring water quality, and ensuring there’s enough law enforcement to protect Montana’s natural and cultural treasures. It’s past time we put an end to this practice that is hurting public lands and our ability to use and enjoy those lands, which in turn hurts our outdoor recreation economy.
Tester’s Leasing Market Efficiency Act will require all BLM oil and gas leases to be issued through a fair, competitive process, instead of noncompetitive, no-bid auctions. The new system will increase transparency, cut down on waste, and – most importantly – ensure that the BLM is using taxpayer dollars to care for our public lands, not manage a bunch of leases that offer no benefit whatsoever to the public.
Montana is ground-zero for noncompetitive oil and gas leasing. From 2014-2018, public lands in Montana accounted for 8% of all federally-managed public lands that were available for oil and gas leasing. But leasing on public lands in Montana nonetheless accounted for nearly 38% of all noncompetitive leasing nationwide.
In 2018 alone, 72% of leases issued in Montana were acquired through noncompetitive leasing, covering 96,000 acres of public land.
Earlier this year, the BLM released a resource management plan for 650,000 acres of public lands in central Montana administered by the agency’s Lewistown Field Office. Spanning from the Rocky Mountain Front to the Musselshell River breaks, this area includes some of the last intact prairie grasslands in the U.S., which makes this storied part of Montana one of the most productive habitats in North America for big game and upland birds.
The plan allows for 95% of this area to be leased for oil and gas development. Coupled with the fact that this area holds little-to-no oil and gas development potential, this plan opens the flood gates to dozens of oil and gas leases obtained through a noncompetitive process.
Tester’s bill offers the best chance we now have to ensure that these lands are taken care of, not leased away.
Call your senators and ask that they support this good-governance, commonsense bill that puts an end to the wasteful, outdated practice of noncompetitive leasing.
Visit our page about oil and gas leasing reform for more information about this practice.
Eastern Montana Field Director
Aubrey works with communities to protect eastern Montana’s prairies, badlands, and island mountain ranges. She spends her time skiing, hiking, and running, volunteering with civic organizations in Billings, exploring public lands with her two dogs, and napping on the couch with her two cats.