January 17, 2020

Cortez Masto Introduces Legislation to Prohibit Oil and Gas Speculation on Low Potential Lands

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) introduced the End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act of 2020 to prohibit oil and gas leasing on public lands that are determined by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to have low or no potential for development. The bill would thereby reprioritize BLM’s administration of these lands for other purposes, like wildlife habitat preservation, outdoor recreation and grazing. 

“BLM spends an enormous amount of time and resources offering vast acreages for oil and gas development on lands that we’ve seen time and again generate little actual interest or output from the oil and gas industry,” said Senator Cortez Masto. “Since 2016, just over 9 percent of the land made available for oil and gas development in Nevada has actually been leased, and most of it for the minimum bid at $2 per acre. This speculative leasing on low-potential lands wastes BLM resources and ‘locks up’ precious areas that could be used for wildlife preservation, recreation, grazing or renewable energy development. I’m proud to introduce this legislation that ensures more effective use of taxpayer dollars and protects our public lands from needless harm.”

“Reckless oil and gas leasing is threatening communities across the West. Senator Cortez Masto’s leadership will help reign in companies who are hoarding public lands with speculative leasing,” said Jamie Williams, President of The Wilderness Society. “We’re counting on Congress to pass common sense reforms that put public lands back in public hands.”


Senator Cortez Masto’s End Speculative Oil and Gas Leasing Act would require BLM to regularly assess oil and gas development potential on public lands, and it would prohibit BLM from offering leases on lands determined to have low or no development potential. This bill aims to:

  1. Reduce speculative leasing.
  2. Conserve vulnerable habitats and protect the environment.
  3. Concentrate development efforts on areas with higher development potential and financial value.
  4. Incentivize more appropriate land-use management.

This proposal would not apply to existing production sites or lands already under lease, rather it would only apply to future lease sales.

Senator Cortez Masto recently urged the BLM to reconsider plans to open up 500,000 acres of land to oil and gas leasing in Southern Nevada, citing potential damage and disruption of critical water sources, along with the general lack of interest and low demand from the oil and gas industry. This April, she also joined thirteen senators in opposing the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) efforts to limit public input on attempts to open more public lands for oil and gas leasing. In December, her Ruby Mountains Protection Act to prohibit oil and gas development within the Ruby Mountains Ranger District of the Humboldt-Toiyabe National Forest passed the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.