Get the Facts

Get the Facts

Oil and Gas on Public Lands

The current system of oil and gas drilling on public lands is tilted towards the oil and gas industry. Private companies drive the leasing process, pay extremely low rates to taxpayers, and are not held accountable for spills and other long-term impacts of development.

Oil production on U.S. public lands is up 60 percent over the last decade.

Natural gas production is near all time highs in the United States, increasing dramatically over the last decade.

90 percent of U.S. public lands managed by the BLM are open to oil and gas leasing and development. Only 10 percent are protected for recreation, conservation, and wildlife.

Between 2009 and 2016, oil and gas companies passed on over 23 million acres of oil and gas leases offered for sale by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM)—that’s more land than all of Maine.

At the end of fiscal year 2016, oil and gas companies were sitting on nearly 8,000 approved, but unused drilling permits. That’s a record high. At the same time, companies are sitting on over 14 million acres of unused public lands leases.

In fiscal year 2016, BLM approved 2,200 new drilling permits, but oil and gas companies used only 850. That means companies received 2.5 times more drilling permits than they needed.

In 2016, oil and gas companies bid on less than half of land offered by BLM at auction—the U.S. government auctioned nearly 2 million acres for oil and gas drilling but companies bid on less than 1 million acres.

In 2015 and 2016, BLM postponed multiple lease sales because industry officials failed to nominate any parcels for leasing.