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Public Land Royalties Drop in 2015

by Elizabeth Alford on December 10, 2015

Lower oil prices throughout 2015 have sapped revenues earned from oil and gas development on public lands.

Related: Mineral Auction for Public Land Draws Protest

Since 2011, royalty disbursements from activity on public lands have totaled tens of billions of dollars. But since crude prices began to plummet last year, those funds are drying up.  The Interior Department’s Office of Natural Resource Revenue says it will disburse $9.8 billion, which is $3.5 billion less than last year. 

Royalty funds from these lands go to the states, Native American tribes, the U.S. Treasury and conservation funds. The share going to the states fell $373 million to $1.8 billion. Significant payouts include:

  • Wyoming: $886 million (smallest in 11 yrs) Gov’t owns 55% of the land
  • New Mexico: $496 million ($83 million less than 2014) Gov’t owns 40% of the land
  • Texas:  $7 million  (down from a $22 million in 2006) Gov’t owns 2% of the land

FuelFix reports that the funds distributed to Native American tribes fell to $852 million for 2015, nearly $300 million less than last year’s total.

“Disbursements to Native American tribes help those communities ‘develop infrastructure, provide healthcare and education, and support other critical community development programs, such as senior centers, public safety projects, and youth initiatives.’ ” 

Lower gas prices are not the only problem facing owners of oil and gas interests in public lands. The federal government continues to try and add more regulations that will curb oil and gas development. These new rules would likely lead to a loss of jobs, a decrease in production and decreased royalties for everyone.

Related: New Fracking Rules for Public Lands

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