Adrian Hedden, Carlsbad Current-Argus—Residents have two weeks to file comments on the federal BLM’s February 2020 sale of leases of New Mexico public land to the oil and gas industry, as an environmental review is underway of lands proposed for sale by industry leaders.
Seventy-two parcels on 17,464 acres were offered in the sale scheduled for Feb. 6, 2020, read a BLM news release.
Parcels were located in Eddy and Lea counties in southeast New Mexico, along with Rio Arriba and Sandoval counties in the northern part of the state.
There were 48 parcels offered in Eddy County for a total of 13,901 acres, records show, and three in Lea County on 520 acres.
One 80-acre parcel was offered in Rio Arriba County, and eight were offered in Sandoval County at 1,570 acres.
The sale also included land in Kingfisher, Roger Mills and Cheyenne counties in Oklahoma.
Public comments will be accepted from Oct. 15 to Oct. 28.
Revenue from the sale was earmarked for the U.S. Treasury and state budgets, read the release, with 48 percent going to the state where the land was sold.
Half of the revenue from royalties also goes to the state if oil and gas is produced.
“The BLM is a key contributor to the Trump Administration’s America-First Energy Plan, an all-of-the-above strategy that includes oil and gas, coal, strategic minerals, and renewable sources such as wind, geothermal, and solar – all of which can be produced on public lands,” the release read.
Leases are for 10-year terms to explore and develop oil and gas and can be extended if a lessee is able to produce mineral resources on the land.
Comments from the public are accepted online through the BLM Land Use Planning and National Environmental Policy Act Register, at BLM.gov.
“Please note that the most useful public comments are substantive and identify issues relevant to the proposed action,” read the release. “These may question, with reasonable basis, the accuracy of information, methodology or assumptions, and present reasonable alternatives other than those analyzed.
“Comments that contain only opinions or preferences, or comments that are essentially identical to other comments, will not be specifically addressed in the environmental review process.”
Cease oil and gas on public land?
U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a front runner for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination called for a complete ban on fossil fuel leases on public land, pointing to extraction industries’ contribution to “climate change.”
“It is wrong to prioritize corporate profits over the health and safety of our local communities,” Warren said in a statement.
“That’s why on my first day as president, I will sign an executive order that says no more drilling — a total moratorium on all new fossil fuel leases, including for drilling offshore and on public lands.”
New Mexico is about 90 percent public land, and oil and gas activities in the state contributed about a third of the State budget, generating about $2.2 billion in oil and natural gas tax revenue in 2018, per a report from the New Mexico Oil and Gas Association.
That meant about $1.06 billion in education funding, read the report, with $822 million for primary and secondary education and $241 million to New Mexico’s universities and colleges.
In a news release from the Western Energy Alliance, a national oil and gas lobbyist group, the Alliance said such proposals, also made by front runners Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden overstepped federal law.
The Alliance cited the Mineral Leasing Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Acts which “do not grant presidents the authority to impose blanket bands on energy production.”
It also pointed to “strict” environmental standards that oil and gas operations must satisfy at both the state and federal level.
Natural gas for electricity generation, read the release, led the U.S. to reduce greenhouse gases more than any other country in the world.
“Proposals to ban oil and natural gas leases on public lands among 2020 Democratic candidates are beyond the authority of a president and ignore the fact that natural gas is the number one reason the United States has reduced greenhouse gas emissions more than any other country,” the release read.
“Oil and natural gas development on public lands only occurs after a careful planning process that involves multiple rounds of environmental analysis with ample opportunity for public comment.”