BLM oil lease sales shifting to internet
A December federal oil and gas lease sale including some 18,330 acres in Mesa and Garfield counties will be conducted online, as the Bureau of Land Management acts to shift more such auctions away from physical locations and onto the internet.
The western Colorado acreage will be offered Dec. 8, and includes considerable acreage up the Plateau Valley and in the De Beque area.
The BLM said this week it also will be holding online sales in December in Montana, Utah and the eastern United States, following a Sept. 20 sale it held in the eastern United States under new congressional authority allowing online sales. The agency says online sales reduce administrative costs, provide greater transparency and should boost sale competition and revenues by boosting participation because bidders don’t have to travel to an auction site. The auctions may be watched at http://www.energynet.com.
The BLM previously did a pilot online auction in Colorado in 2009.
The Western Energy Alliance industry group said this week it supports online auctions for safety’s sake, due to what it says are potential dangers posed by radical protesters and the protest platform that auctions can provide them. It pointed to reports this week of activists shutting down oil pipelines in support of an ongoing protest of the Dakota Access Pipeline project.
“The extremism we see from anti-oil and gas protesters, such as the vandalism and sabotage in North Dakota, is cause enough for BLM to hold lease sales online,” WEA’s Kathleen Sgamma, vice president of government and public affairs, said in a news release.
In comments submitted to the BLM, the WEA specifically urged that the upcoming sale of the western Colorado parcels be conducted online “to avoid the disruptive activity that has plagued recent lease sales in Colorado and across the West.”
The conservation group Greenpeace has called for in-person auctions to continue, saying auctions need to be transparent, with an opportunity for the public to witness them and protest.
The upcoming auction includes more than 16,000 acres in Mesa County and nearly 2,000 acres in Garfield County. Much of the Mesa County acreage is on both sides of Plateau Creek just east of the Colorado River, with significant acreage also lying just west and north of De Beque. Some isolated parcels are east of Collbran.
More than a third of the acreage being offered in the two counties is on private land with federal minerals beneath it.
The BLM Colorado December lease sale is subject to a written protest period that ends in mid-November. Some Front Range parcels also will be part of the sale.
Several conservation groups have raised concerns about the western Colorado acreage being offered.
Among their concerns are climate-change impacts, and threats to air and water quality and wildlife. The BLM says lease stipulations will provide for things such as protections for the Colorado River and Plateau Creek, and endangered and sensitive fish.