The U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) on Wednesday conducted its first online lease auction, selling all of its parcels but not disclosing the overall proceeds.
Using newly acquired authority from Congress, BLM's Eastern States Office offered 4,400 acres, covering mostly two national forests in Mississippi and a small amount of acreage on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) managed land in Kentucky.
Among the 4,400 acres, 4,214 acres were in the Homochitto and Bienville National Forests in Mississippi, and 184 acres were on USACE lands in Kentucky. The highest bid was $184/acre for an 86.21-acre parcel, according to BLM.
The latest lease sale was hosted by EnergyNet (www.EnergyNet.com) with each parcel made available for bidding for three hours during the lease sale. "Sale progress could be monitored through the website by ay member of the public, in addition to sale participants," BLM said.
Denver-based Western Energy Alliance's (WEA) Kathleen Sgamma, vice president for government/public relations, praised the move to online auctions, noting that they can potentially "reduce administrative costs and eliminate disruptions" from protesters. Sgamma also said that without the use of online sales, BLM failed several times recently to meet its requirement under federal law to hold quarterly lease sales.
Last year, 15 members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to the Department of Interior (DOI), urging that BLM move its quarterly oil/gas lease sales to the Internet. Traditionally, they have been conducted face-to-face in BLM field offices (see Daily GPI, Dec. 18, 2015).
The authority for the Internet-based oil/gas lease sales was provided by the 2015 National Defense Authorization Act, and BLM on Aug. 31 published a new rule amending its regulation to accommodate the expanded authority.
"I am pleased that Eastern States were able to be the first BLM office to use this new authority," said Karen Mouritsen, BLM Eastern States director. "The success of this effort builds upon the experience of other government agencies with online auctions, and gives the BLM another tool to efficiently administer its oil/gas program."
In the past year, mounting protests from anti-fossil fuel groups, such as Keep-It-in-the-Ground, have increasingly attempted to disrupt sales scheduled in BLM regional offices (see Daily GPI, May 13).