Energy

‘Something’s Fishy’: Oil Speculation Skyrockets In State With ‘Very Little Oil’

Millions of acres worth of requests for oil speculation on federal lands were submitted in Nevada just years before former President Barack Obama designated two national monuments in the state, the Center for Biological Diversity (CBD) found Friday.

Expression of Interest (EOI) documents are submitted to state Bureau of Land Management (BLM) agencies for any parcel of federal land that prospectors think may produce oil. The BLM is then required by law to study the area and decide whether it should be leased to an oil company for development.

The Nevada EOIs are mostly worthless and a waste of taxpayer money, however, according to CBD Nevada state director, Patrick Donnelly.

CBD is using the information as evidence President Donald Trump’s review of national monument designations, and its potential to roll back some of those, is “a complete sham,” Donnelly told TheDCNF.

“It appears there could be multiple motives for the monument review including potentially opening up lands that are currently protected for oil and gas,” Donnelly said. “There are certain places that should be off limits to oil and gas and these monuments … are too special to be developed for oil and gas.”

The oil industry’s actual interest in Nevada is “very small” and not representative of the massive amount of EOIs submitted to Nevada BLM, Western Energy Alliance president Kathleen Sgamma told The Daily Caller News Foundation.

EOIs, while usually covering one or two million acres in Nevada, exploded in 2014, covering a total of 28 million acres, according to BLM data.

“Something very weird is going on in Nevada with those [EOIs],” Sgamma said. “The [EOIs] of just millions of acres at a time … do not appear to be from reputable companies. They do not reflect any industry interest.”

While millions of acres of federal land in Nevada is supposedly drawing interest for oil development, oil companies purchase very few leases that are auctioned off by the BLM. In 2015, BLM’s most current data, of the 248 parcels of land BLM offered to lease to oil companies, only 14 were bought.

“The interest in Nevada is very small,” Sgamma said. “There are some companies, there are a few number of wells that have been drilled over the last couple of years, but they are not in these monument areas [of Gold Butte and Basin and Range].”

CBD cannot explain why EOIs spiked in 2014. While blaming oil companies for wanting to downsize national monuments, CBD and the oil industry agree that developing the vast amount of land in Nevada would be a waste of money.

“There is very little oil and gas in Nevada, very little. Its not Wyoming here. We just don’t have a ton of oil and gas potential so it sort of is all the more jarring to see this level of speculation,” Donnelly said. “I think these speculators are waiting for some geopolitical crisis where the price of oil spikes dramatically, and then, potentially, its economically feasible to extract.”

Donnelly blamed “speculators” in Texas operating out of “one man shops” for the million of acres of supposed oil interest.

Positively knowing who has been requesting the EOIs is strictly dependent on how much information is filled out on the form and released by the BLM. Many forms lack enough information to get even a general sense of the request’s origin, Sgamma said.

“It could be a bad industry actor. It could be an environmental group nominating things so that they can later say, ‘Hey, we need this monument designation to protect from the greedy oil and gas industry,'” Sgamma said. “[CBD is] looking at very fishy data that just are not reflective of industry interest.”

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