PRB Oil Drilling

A rig operates in the vicinity of existing oil wells in May 2017 in the Powder River Basin. A new release from the Bureau of Land Management says 2018 was a record year for oil production on federal land.

The Trump administration touted a record $1.1 billion in revenue from oil and gas on federal lands in 2018, noting that this increase coincided with practices that limited the acreage impacted by drilling, the Bureau of Land Management reported in a press release Wednesday.

Last year set a record for oil production on federal land, with more than 214 million barrels produced on 25 million acres — the smallest footprint on land since the current system of measuring was implemented in 1985, according to the release.

In a statement, Interior Secretary David Bernhardt praised President Donald Trump and the technological advances in the industry that allow for less impact on the surface.

“Our production numbers are unprecedented, even though we have the fewest acres under lease in almost four decades,” Bernhardt said.

Two-thirds of the bureau’s permit to drill applications are for proposed wells in Wyoming and New Mexico, the release states. Additionally, two-thirds of new drilling began in those two states — the top two states for both acres currently leased and leases that are currently producing hydrocarbons, the release Wednesday states.

Wyoming is often a leading producer of oil and gas from federal minerals and leases. New Mexico has a robust oil and gas sector and represents the westernmost part of the prolific Permian Basin.

Other advances noted in the press release were the bureau’s efforts to be more efficient stewards for the oil and gas sector, such as their 30 percent reduction in the average time it takes to process drilling permit applications and the number of new wells spudded in 2018, an increase of 1,000 from 2016.

Last year the number of producing leases rose to more than 24,000, the highest level since 2008, according to the BLM release.

The Trump administration has made energy development a priority on federally managed lands, a push that goes hand-in-hand with the administration’s ongoing deregulation efforts. Political support and a softened regulatory framework have coincided with a strengthening price of oil over the last two years, as well as advances in Wyoming plays that promise greater production potential in the near term.

In Wyoming, revenue from oil and gas lease sales, both federal and state, jumped 800 percent from 2016 to 2017.

But the energy push has created friction as well with environmental groups who view the Trump administration as trouncing protections for the environment and non-industry uses of public lands in Wyoming and Western states.

From methane leaks from infrastructure to auctioning leases to oil and gas firms in big game migration corridors, groups say the energy push that the administration touted Wednesday has had adverse impacts in the West.

Randi Spivak, public lands director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement that the administration’s brag about oil and gas successes should inspire resistance.

“It’s horrifying to see Bernhardt boasting about profits made from wrecking our climate and destroying our children’s future,” he said. “Trump’s reckless push to speed oil and gas production on public lands completely undermines the urgently needed transition to clean energy.”

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Follow energy reporter Heather Richards on Twitter @hroxaner


Energy Reporter

Heather Richards writes about energy and the environment. A native of the Blue Ridge Mountains in Virginia, she moved to Wyoming in 2015 to cover natural resources and government in Buffalo. Heather joined the Star Tribune later that year.

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