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BLM oil and gas sale generates ‘anemic’ $39M

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The U.S. Bureau of Land Management’s latest sale of oil and gas leases in New Mexico generated $39.3 million from buyers, much less than the agency’s last sale in September.

Just under half of that revenue goes to state government, and the rest goes to the U.S. Treasury.

The BLM leased a total of 107 land parcels during the two-day, online auction held Wednesday and Thursday, encompassing about 87,000 acres. That included about 46,000 acres in the San Juan Basin in northwestern New Mexico, and the rest in the Permian Basin in southeastern Lea, Eddy and Chaves counties.

The sale reaped far less revenue than the BLM’s quarterly auction in September, when bidders paid a record-breaking $973 million for 142 parcels in the Permian. That sale yielded $467 million for New Mexico, raising expectations that this week’s event would generate more than it did.

“Many people thought the sale would earn about $125 million, but it ended up well below that at $39 million,” said Sen. John Arthur Smith, vice chair of the Legislative Finance Committee. “That’s a pretty anemic number.”

The highest bid per acre was $35,000 for 48 acres in Lea County. That compares to $81,855 per acre that one bidder paid in the September auction for a 1,200-acre parcel in Eddy County.

That may reflect the location of parcels outside the Delaware Basin, where today’s oil and gas boom is centered in Lea and Eddy counties. More than half the acreage leased this time was in the San Juan Basin, and much of the acreage in the Permian fell on the margins of Delaware activity.

Environmentalists, tribal groups and other community organizations demonstrated against the latest BLM auction on Wednesday with about 200 protesters gathering in front of the agency’s offices in Santa Fe. About half of them later blocked traffic at the intersection of N.M.14 and Rancho Viejo Boulevard.

The protestors oppose the sale of leases in regions surrounding Chaco Culture National Historic Park.