Trump Administration Makes Biggest Sale of Federal Drilling Rights in Four Years

Published April 14, 2017

After President Donald Trump stated announced his administration’s approval of expanded drilling for oil and gas on federal lands, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) sold drilling rights on 278 parcels of federal land, mostly in Wyoming, for $129.3 million, the largest lease sale in four years.

Wyoming will receive approximately $63 million from the oil and gas lease sale, as almost half of the $129.3 million collected by the BLM goes to the state. The total acreage leased is more than half as much as all the federal land leased for drilling rights in 2015.

Industry sources had contended the Obama administration slowed or cancelled during its second term lease sales as part of its climate change agenda.

A 2016 study by Louisiana State University and the Institute for Energy Research found rolling back federal restrictions on fossil-fuel production on public lands could create 2.7 million jobs and add $663 billion to the economy each year over the next 30 years. The study also found increased federal fossil-fuel leasing could over the next 37 years boost wages nationwide by $5.1 trillion and generate $3.9 trillion in new federal tax revenue.

Restoring Original Purpose

Unlike national parks, lands controlled by BLM were intended to be used for multiple purposes, including resource extraction, says Isaac Orr, a research fellow for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News.

“National Parks such as Yellowstone were created with the purpose of preserving animals and wildlands for the public’s enjoyment,” Orr said. “By contrast, BLM land was always supposed to have grazing, mining, and oil and gas production, so they’re going back to the basics.

“I think the Trump administration is going to be more open to mineral development and exploration,” Orr said.

Reducing Role of Politics

Orr says at current prices, it is hard to predict whether there is going to be a rush to start oil and gas drilling on any of the newly opened federal lands, but he does expect developers to start buying up leases, some of which will be bought in anticipation of higher prices.

“Ultimately there’s going to be more freedom for producers to decide where they want to drill based on geology and economics, rather than regulations,” Orr said. “The Permian Basin is just going gangbusters right now.

“If you’re already there, then you’re benefitting from a lot of institutional knowledge about the area,” said Orr. “Ultimately, the rocks are going to determine where and when development happens, with politics playing a smaller role than in the recent past.”

Kenneth Artz ([email protected]) writes from Dallas, Texas.


Joseph R. Mason, “The Economic Effects of Immediately Opening Federal Lands to Oil, Gas, and Coal Leasing,” Institute for Energy Research, December 23, 2015: