In 2007, the Department of the Interior (Interior) collected about $10.5 billion in revenues from companies that hold federal oil and gas leases. Interior's Minerals Management Service manages offshore leases, while its Bureau of Land Management manages onshore leases and leases in the National Petroleum Reserve in Alaska. Acquiring a federal lease gives the lessee the rights to explore for and develop the oil and gas resources under the lease. Development entails many tasks, including drilling wells and building pipelines that may lead to oil and gas production. GAO agreed to (1)describe Interior's efforts to encourage development of federal oil and gas leases and compare them to states' and private landowners' efforts, (2)examine trends in leasing and factors that may affect development, and (3) describe development on a sample of leases. GAO reviewed data on about 55,000 leases and spoke to officials at Interior and in eight states with leasing experience, among others.
Recommendations for Executive Action
|Department of the Interior||To better ensure that federal land leased for oil and gas exploration and development provides financial and energy benefits as soon as possible, the Secretary of the Interior should develop a strategy to encourage faster development of oil and gas leases on federal lands, including determining whether methods to differentiate between leases according to the likelihood of finding economic quantities of oil or gas and whether some of the other methods states use could effectively be employed, either across all federal leases or in a targeted fashion. In so doing, Interior should identify any statutory or other obstacles to using such methods and report the findings to Congress.|