The Trump administration is pushing ahead with drilling lease sales as oil prices plummet and amid calls from conservation groups and others to suspend business as usual during the coronavirus outbreak.
The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) held lease sales in Wyoming, Montana, Nevada and Colorado on Monday, selling oil rights on parcels of public land covering hundreds of thousands of acres.
But taxpayer groups argue the sales come at an inopportune time, as oil prices fall to roughly $23 a barrel, risking generating little income for the treasury.
“In this environment, it is impossible for the American taxpayer to expect anywhere near a fair return on oil and gas leases,” Conservatives for Responsible Stewardship and Taxpayers for Common Sense wrote last week, encouraging the administration to suspend lease sales for the rest of the year.
The groups’ analysis of lease sales in Utah in mid-March found 90 percent of acres sold received the minimum bid of $2 per acre.
BLM did not immediately respond to request for comment from The Hill.
However, the agency told Reuters they are “letting free market forces work after the resource is extracted by companies who sell these commodities. Oil and gas lease sales and royalties continue to propel America’s economy and support good-paying energy sector jobs.”
Environmental groups say the administration should not continue with a number of activities while a distracted public may be unable to weigh in.
“The Trump administration has already gone to extraordinary lengths to stifle and ignore public input to enact its drill everywhere agenda. Ramming through major policies while the country battles a global pandemic would only add to its legacy of corporate charity and environmental destruction,” the Center for Western Priorities said in a statement.