By Nichola Groom | Reuters
U.S. taxpayers netted less than $50,000 on Thursday in bids for oil and gas leases in California as the Trump administration held the first federal drilling auction since 2012 in the Democratic and environmentally minded state.
The auction for drilling rights on seven parcels covering 4,100 acres generated $46,148.64, according to results on the auction site EnergyNet.
The average price per acre was $11, far below the nearly $330-an-acre average price federal lease sales have generatedthroughout the Trump administration, according to data compiled by green group Center for Western Priorities.
Leasing is a key part of President Donald Trump’s agenda to increase fossil fuel development, but many sale results havebeen lackluster this year as the coronavirus pandemic has slammed energy demand and prices.
The parcels sold on Thursday in California’s Kern County, home to most of the state’s drilling activity, had been previously leased, according to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, which oversaw the sale.
The auction in the waning days of Trump’s administration represents yet another clash between his pro-fossil fuel agendaand the Golden State’s efforts to combat climate change.
Throughout his four-year term, the battle has been waged on issues ranging from auto emissions to curbs on pollution fromthe power sector.
President-elect Joe Biden, a Democrat who will succeed Trump on Jan. 20, has pledged to halt new oil and gas leasing onfederal lands and waters as part of a sweeping plan to fight global warming.
Federal drilling auctions in California were halted in 2013 after state officials filed lawsuits challenging the practice onenvironmental and health grounds.
BLM concluded last December that opening the lands to development presents no health risks.
State officials, including Governor Gavin Newsom, filed a formal protest against the sale with BLM last month.
BLM dismissed the protest ahead of the auction, saying the state’s arguments against the sale had been resolved during theenvironmental review process.