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Review Finds Large Chunk of Oil and Gas Leases Inactive

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Department of the Interior

A new report from the U.S. Department of the Interior says more than two-thirds of the nation’s  offshore and half of the onshore oil and gas leases on federal lands are sitting idle.

Inactive lands in the Gulf of Mexico could potentially hold more than 11 billion barrels of oil and 50 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.  For onshore leases – including in Colorado - the Interior Department review found roughly 45% of all leases are inactive – which amounts to around 22 million acres that are not being used. 

“It’s important to note that an oil and natural gas lease is no more than a definite maybe,” says Kathleen Sgamma, Director of Government and Public Affairs with the Denver-based Western Energy Alliance.  “Maybe you’ll get through all the environmental analyses and regulatory hurdles; maybe you’ll get permission to drill; maybe your project won’t be held up by challenges from environmental groups; and maybe you’ll find oil or natural gas.”

Sgamma says reducing the number and redundancy of federal regulatory hurdles would speed up the process.  The Interior Department says it’s exploring incentives to encourage more rapid development of oil and gas resources from existing and future leases. 

President Barack Obama ordered the review earlier this month amid pressure to curb spiking gas prices.  The President plans to address U-S energy security during a speech in Washington on Wednesday. 


As host of KUNC's Colorado Edition, I work closely with our producers and reporters to bring context and diverse perspectives to the important issues of the day. And because life is best when it's a balance of work and play, I love finding stories that highlight culture, music, the outdoors, and anything that makes Colorado such a great place to live.