Oil and gas industry eyeing Chaves County in upcoming oil and gas land auction

Adrian Hedden
Carlsbad Current-Argus

A sale of public land by the federal government would target Chaves County for oil and gas development as the industry booms throughout southeast New Mexico.

The Bureau of Land Management announced a two-week public comment period from Jan. 27 to Feb. 7 for its May 21 oil and gas lease sale, that would see the agency lease public lands nominated by industry leaders to oil and gas companies for drilling and other extraction operations.

There were 102 total parcels proposed for the sale in New Mexico and Texas, read a BLM news release, for a total of 46,365 acres.

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To the north of the Permian, Chaves County was home to about 94 percent of that land, with 43,448 acres offered for the sale on 84 parcels.

Further into the basin to the south, Eddy County saw seven parcels offered for a total of 3,656 acres and Lea County had nine parcels on 3,588 acres in the sale.

In the San Juan Basin in northwest New Mexico, seven parcels were offered for a total of 920 acres.

More:New Mexico's oil and gas surplus could fund land conservation projects if bill passes

A single, 31-acre parcel was also offered in Wise County, Texas near Dallas.

Revenue from oil and gas production help fund the U.S. Treasury and state budgets to support public services such as education and infrastructure, read the release.

Forty-eight percent of the revenue goes to the states where production occurs, while the rest goes to the Treasury.

The states also get half of any royalties.

“Oil and gas production from public lands is an important economic driver for communities across Texas, New Mexico and the West,” said BLM New Mexico State Office Director Tim Spisak. “Consistent with our mandate to promote sustainable multiple-use activities on BLM-managed lands, we’re proud to offer these parcels for lease at our upcoming May lease sale.”

More:New Mexico's oil and gas regulators hope funding requests will strengthen operations

BLM looks to increase access to public lands

While oil and gas continued to boom on federal land in the Permian Basin in southeast New Mexico and West Texas, the BLM also sought ways to encourage recreational opportunities.

To that end, the BLM sought the public’s help in identifying lands ideal for recreation such as hunting and fishing, but that lack public access – often due to oil and gas leases surrounding open parcels of land.

Recommendations from the public would be used to develop a report for the U.S. Congress that would offer suggestions such as acquiring easements, rights-of-way, or fee titles from land owners.

More:Oil and gas generated $3.1 billion in state revenue last year

A priority list was expected to be posted on the BLM’s website by March 12 and will be updated every two years for the next decade.

The initial nominations for lands needing better access points would be available from Jan. 31 to Feb. 29., subsequent nomination periods could be offered in the future.

Nominations must be for parcels at 640 continuous acres, with “significantly” restricted or no public access.

Submissions must include the location, total acreage and a description of the lack of access.

More:State of New Mexico granted power to fine oil and gas companies that break the law

“The BLM has worked tirelessly with other federal and state agencies, public and private partners to proactively identify and address public land access issues for many years,” said William Pendley, BLM director of programs and policy.

“Our priority is to increase access to public lands wherever possible, and to increase public opportunities for hunting, fishing and outdoor recreation across the more than 245 million acres of lands we manage.”

He said the move was in accordance with the John D. Dingell Conservation, Management and Recreation Act, signed into law by President Donald Trump in March 2019.

More:Lawsuit seeks to cancel oil and gas leases on New Mexico federal land

“The John D. Dingell, Jr. Conservation, Management, and Recreation Act will help us expand and improve these efforts, and we welcome information from the public that will help us pinpoint barriers to access,” Pendley said.

The Act directed the BLM to develop a nationwide list of public lands lacking access, and the BLM was working to implement such efforts in 15 states including:

  • New Mexico
  • Alaska
  • Arizona
  • California
  • Idaho
  • Utah
  • Montana
  • Dakotas
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Washington
  • Louisiana
  • Minnesota

“Implementing the Dingell Act will continue the Department of the Interior’s work to strike proper balance for land and resources management, increase access for hunting, fishing, and recreation, and create economic prosperity while protecting and preserving America’s treasures,” read a BLM statement.

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Adrian Hedden can be reached at 575-628-5516, achedden@currentargus.com or @AdrianHedden on Twitter.