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BLM New Mexico raises $20 million at energy lease sale

A pumpjack works in the oil fields east of Artesia earlier this year. (Greg Sorber/Albuquerque Journal)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The Bureau of Land Management New Mexico raised more than $20 million on Thursday in the year’s first quarterly auction of mineral leases on federal land.

The leases allow companies to drill for oil and natural gas on federal land. Most mineral leases up for sale in New Mexico were on BLM land in Eddy County, where oil and gas production continues to break records.

A lease on a 320-acre parcel in Eddy County received the highest bid of the day at $31,680 an acre. That lease was purchased by Federal Abstract Co. All New Mexico leases, totaling more than 14,000 acres, sold.

The BLM held at least three public comment periods and an environmental impact review prior to Thursday’s sale. Leases are good for 10 years, and can be renewed if they are productive.

For some conservationists, the proximity of Thursday’s leases to sensitive landmarks was concerning. One lease is about 10 miles from an eastern boundary of Carlsbad Caverns.

“Issuing these oil and gas leases would damage Carlsbad Caverns National Park’s unique and stunning geologic qualities, and more drilling would further degrade air quality in the park, which can affect the health of the hundreds of thousands of people that visit each year,” said Emily Wolf, New Mexico program coordinator for the National Parks Conservation Association.

The Farmington and Carlsbad BLM offices are revising their resource management plans, which could determine if more land should be set aside for wildlife habitat or cultural resource protection.

Theresa Davis is a Report for America corps member covering water and the environment for the Albuquerque Journal.

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