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Protesters Rant at BLM Nevada Oil, Gas Lease Sale, But the Market Speaks Louder

The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) office in Reno, NV, held an oil/natural gas lease sale involving more than 50,000 acres in two northern counties on Tuesday, and the market spoke loud and clear above the chanting of protesters from the national "Keep It in the Ground" campaign that wants to end leasing on public and tribal lands.

The offering drew no pre-sale or competitive bids, a Reno-based BLM spokesperson told NGI, noting he didn't think the protest was a contributing factor. He stopped short of speculating whether depressed commodity price environment was a factor. "I really can't comment on the motivation of the companies."

In a repeat of a demonstration in Colorado last month (see Daily GPI, Feb. 12), 25 to 30 protesters marched two blocks to Reno's Silver Legacy Resort Casino for what they dubbed a "climate auction," alleging that the leased parcels contain 486,000 tons of potential greenhouse gas emissions and provide important habitat to several "sensitive and imperiled" species, such as the bi-state sage grouse.

"Most of the protesters came in and observed the lease sale," the spokesperson said.

Using the exposition hall in the casino, BLM offered 39 parcels totaling 50,415 acres in Elko and Eureka counties. A similar sale was held a year ago, generating $63,181 in proceeds from selling 16 parcels covering more than 19,000 acres through both competitive and noncompetitive bidding, a BLM  spokesperson said. BLM's most recent sale in December for three parcels totaling about 3,600 acres in Ely County drew $6,676 in proceeds from pre-sale offers, he said.

There is still the possibility that Tuesday's offering will draw belated, noncompetitive bids. The offering technically is held open for two years during which that could happen, the spokesperson said. "They have another day to submit initial noncompetitive bids, so we will see what comes in [on Wednesday]," he said.The parcels have to remain open for the two-year period before they could be re-offered in a competitive process.

BLM Nevada officials said they are continuing to hold quarterly lease sales with the parcels offered being nominated first by industry representatives. The leases are for 10-year periods with annual rental fees of $1.50/acre the first five years, and $2/acre each year for five subsequent years.

Since last fall a number of BLM lease sales have been postponed in the face of stiffening protests. In January, BLM postponed an oil/gas lease sale in Billings, MT, the third time since November the agency delayed an auction (see Daily GPI, Jan. 19, Dec. 7, 2015; Nov. 17, 2015).

The protesters, who call themselves climate change activists, are increasingly known for their chanting and sign carrying outside BLM offices and lease sale venues. They want an end to auctions of public lands to fossil fuel companies.

In Colorado last month, protesters showed up even though the local BLM office had canceled a scheduled auction to allow more time to talk with Native American stakeholders (see Daily GPI, Feb. 5).

The Keep It in the Ground campaign plans to stake out upcoming BLM auctions in Wisconsin, Louisiana and Wyoming, according to a spokesperson. Past protests have been staged in Alaska, Wyoming, Colorado, Utah and Nevada, and sales have been postponed in three states and Washington, DC.

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