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Only two thirds of total parcels sold in first oil and gas lease sale in 18 months 

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The Bureau of Land Management oversees the sales of oil and gas leases on public land.

Wyoming’s oil and gas lease sales of public land concluded June 30. It was the first sale to happen since late 2020 – typically they are four times a year.

Two-thirds of the total parcels offered were sold, which is 67,627 acres of Wyoming public land. The other third went unpurchased.

Alan Rogers, the communications director for the Wyoming Outdoor Council, said that is a stark difference from what was expected.

“All we've heard while the sales haven't been going on from industry groups is that oil and gas companies are desperate for more public land to develop, that they really need more leasing to create jobs, or increase domestic supply or lower gas prices at the pump,” Rogers said. “But when this opportunity knocks, you know, the results were pretty lukewarm.”

But Ryan McConnaughey, Vice President of the Petroleum Association of Wyoming’s, said the sale was a success. The parcels sold for nearly $13 million to the federal government, and half of that will be returned to the state.

“We're pleased with the fact that that money coming to Wyoming will be able to be used to fund education and public infrastructure, and our local governments once again,” he said.

However, opponents of the sale say it never should have happened – nearly half of already leased land in the state is not being developed for oil and gas. If that land were to be developed it would generate revenue as well.

McConnaughey said that is a complicated issue with a variety of reasons as to why the drilling is not happening.

“You can't look at the oil and gas industry as one monolith that has all of these leases available. You know, it's individual companies that hold these leases,” he said. “Just because you have a lease doesn't mean you get to drill or it doesn't mean that there are petroleum products available to drill.”

McConnaughey also mentioned that 2,000 leases in Wyoming are currently paused due to litigation regarding a review of the environmental analyses.

Caitlin Tan is the Energy and Natural Resources reporter based in Sublette County, Wyoming. Since graduating from the University of Wyoming in 2017, she’s reported on salmon in Alaska, folkways in Appalachia and helped produce 'All Things Considered' in Washington D.C. She formerly co-hosted the podcast ‘Inside Appalachia.' You can typically find her outside in the mountains with her two dogs.
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