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U.S. unveils plans for June oil and gas drilling auctions

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April 18 (Reuters) – The Biden administration will offer oil and gas companies drilling rights on federal acreage in at least eight states in June, according to sale notices published on Monday.

The announcements come days after the U.S. Department of Interior said it would resume oil and gas lease sales on public lands, a move that clashes with a pledge President Joe Biden made while campaigning for the White House.

Biden paused drilling auctions shortly after taking office last year, citing the need to study the program’s value to taxpayers and impact on climate change.

Last June, however, a federal judge ordered the lease sales to resume following a challenge from Republican-led states. The sales announced on Monday will take place online throughout the month of June, a full year after that court order.

In its announcement last week, Interior said it would proceed with the sales, but with sharply diminished acreage and steeper royalties for oil and gas companies.

On Monday, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, an arm of the Interior Department, said it will offer 131,771 acres (53,326 hectares) to oil and gas companies in Wyoming, the largest planned sale. It had originally evaluated auctioning more than 550,000 acres in the state.

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The Wyoming sale, which will be held on June 21 and 22, accounts for more than 90% of the 144,000 acres the agency will offer during the month.

BLM also reduced the acreage it will offer in Colorado, Utah, Montana, and Nevada from the levels it said it was considering last year.

In Utah, for instance, the agency said it will offer just one 160-acre parcel at a June 28 online auction, down from its original plan of six parcels on more than 6,000 acres.

The parcel on offer is located in an area of previous oil and gas development and includes an unplugged well that would need to be restarted or plugged, BLM documents said. Other parcels that were considered were located in areas used for recreation, BLM said.

The agency is also planning lease sales for parcels in New Mexico, Oklahoma and North Dakota, it said.

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