U.S. Senate Hears Crucial Bill from Senator Cortez Masto to Protect Public Lands from Oil and Gas Leasing

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Full video of the hearing can be found here.

NEVADA — Today, the Nevada Conservation League applauded as the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests, and Mining held a legislative hearing to consider bills including Senator Catherine Cortez Masto’s End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act. This common-sense bill would reform the antiquated federal onshore oil and gas leasing program to prohibit oil and gas leasing on public lands with little to no potential for drilling and reprioritize these lands for other purposes including wildlife habitat preservation, outdoor recreation, and grazing. 

Nevada voters value public spaces and demonstrate great concern over the use of public lands. A recent conservation poll shows 75 percent of Nevadans think oil and gas development on national public lands should be stopped or strictly limited as opposed to expanded. The same poll also finds that 74 percent prefer their Members of Congress emphasize conservation and recreation over maximizing energy development on public lands. 

Following the hearing, Nevada Conservation League Executive Director Paul Selberg released the following statement: 

“Speculative oil and gas leasing is a bad deal for Nevada, a state that produces little to no fossil fuel production. For too long, companies have taken advantage of the antiquated oil and gas leasing system – forcing us to auction off acres of valuable outdoor spaces for drilling at a price that does not retain the true value of our public lands. We applaud Senator Cortez Masto for advancing a bill that would put an end to this wasteful practice and enhance the management of more sustainable revenue-generating activities on our public lands like hunting, fishing, tourism, and outdoor recreation. This bill is an urgently needed solution to a problem that has plagued our public lands, taxpayers, and local economies for years, and was exacerbated under the previous administration. Senator Cortez Masto’s bill will play an essential part in ensuring the protection of our public spaces, phasing out our country’s reliance on fossil fuels, and complementing our nation’s leadership in climate action and clean energy generation.”

Background: 

  • Mandated by the Mineral Leasing Act of 1920, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Nevada holds oil and gas lease auctions four times per year, offering up the state’s public lands to oil and gas companies. This outdated program allowed the Bureau of Land Management of Nevada to offer over 2.5 million acres of public land for oil and gas leasing under the Trump administration — one of the highest totals compared to other states. Additionally, 74 percent of the public lands given up for oil and gas leasing were sold at the minimum bid, which could be as low as $2 per acre. 
  • The outdated federal onshore oil and gas leasing system allows oil and gas companies to pursue speculative leasing on public lands that may not bear any actual drilling potential. This misguided approach, which even industry insiders agree is wasteful, harms western communities that depend on public lands for other activities, including hunting and fishing, tourism, and outdoor recreation, and wasting taxpayer dollars and scarce government resources.