BLM Auctions Off Arizona Land For Oil, Gas Leases

The Bureau of Land Management auctioned off 4,200 acres of public land for oil and gas leases in northern Arizona near Petrified Forest National Park. Parcels that did not receive bids are available for noncompetitive leasing for two years.

The BLM manages and conserves 12.2 million acres of public land and 17.5 million subsurface acres within Arizona.

The sale is a part of a Trump administration policy issued in January that requires the BLM — the agency in charge of oil and gas leasing — to offer industry-nominated parcels for lease.

Forty-eight percent of the revenue from lease sales goes to the state where the oil and gas activity is occurring, while the rest goes to the U.S. Treasury. If the leases result in producing oil or gas wells, revenue from royalties based on production are also shared with the state.

The Federal Helium Program, administered by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Land Management (BLM), Amarillo Field Office, is responsible for the conservation and sale of Federally owned helium. The BLM operates and maintains a helium storage reservoir, enrichment plant, and pipeline system near Amarillo, Texas, that supplies over 40 percent of domestic demand for helium. The program operates under the authority of the Helium Stewardship Act of 2013.

The BLM is deferring all environmental analysis until the drilling stage, after development rights are sold to industry. Groups sued to block the policy in July.

“What we don’t know can hurt us, which is why it is critically important to evaluate impacts and any potential harm prior to moving forward with these leases,” said Sandy Bahr, chapter director for Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter. “The public has a right to know what harm may be caused early on and to have the opportunity to speak up against it and for iconic places such as Petrified Forest National Park.”

Driven by high helium prices, companies are targeting the Holbrook Basin for helium, oil and gas development.

Representative Tom O’Halleran has sent a letter opposing the lease sale.

The lands in the auction straddle the Little Colorado River and Silver Creek.


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