The Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which found success in its first online lease auction last month, has rescheduled four other lease sale auctions that were to be conducted in coming weeks to instead be held online in December.

BLM said it will hold lease sales for Montana and Colorado on Dec. 8 and lease sales for Utah and Eastern States on Dec. 13. The Montana sale was originally set for Oct. 18, the Colorado sale for Nov. 10, the Utah sale for Nov. 15, and the Eastern States sale for Dec. 8.

“These additional online lease sales continue BLM’s effort to modernize and increase the efficiency of its oil and gas program to improve competition and find administrative cost savings,” the agency said.

Last month, BLM’s Eastern States Office last month conducted its first online lease auction, offering 4,400 acres, covering mostly two national forests in Mississippi and a small amount of acreage on U.S. Army Corps of Engineers managed land in Kentucky (see Shale Daily, Sept. 23).

Last year, 15 members of the U.S. House of Representatives wrote to the Department of Interior, 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). 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.

Western Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 248, which offered 23.8 million acres offshore Texas for oil and natural gas exploration and development, attracted only a handful of bids in August, and — unlike several other recent lease sales — no interruptions by protesters, thanks to a Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) decision to broadcast the event live on the Internet (see Daily GPI, Aug. 24; July 25). The Internet-only lease sale appeared to stymie anti-drilling protesters, who have marred several recent BOEM and BLM lease sales (see Daily GPI, Feb. 12; March 9).

“We strongly support BLM rescheduling next month’s lease sales and moving them online since it will increase safety and remove a platform for radical protesters who want to stop American energy production,” said Kathleen Sgamma, Western Energy Alliance vice president of government and public affairs. “Online auctions enable BLM to meet its obligations under existing law, reduce administrative costs, and eliminate disruptions from Keep It in the Ground protesters. The public still has the opportunity to participate at multiple points in the leasing process, but the actual sale will use up-to-date technology.”