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1: Executive Summary

2: About Oil/Gas Leases

3: Oil & Gas Impacts

4: Bush Admin Rollbacks

5: The Spin on Drilling

6: Hotspot: Roan Plateau, CO

7: Hotspot: Otero Mesa, NM

8: Hotspot: Rocky Mtn Front, MT

9: Hotspot: Powder River Basin, WY

10: Hotspot: Book Cliffs, UT

11: Oil, Gas, Political Cash

12: EWG Recommendations

13: Methodology

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Atlas of Active Leases

Regional Summaries




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The Western United States

State Summary | Lands Leased | Maps | Land Protection | Lease Holders

A first-ever investigation of federal land use records by the Environmental Working Group (EWG) shows that the oil and gas industry has been given access to an immense area of western land, and that this nearly unfettered opportunity to drill in 12 western states has done nothing to reduce the country's dependence on foreign oil.

EWG's analysis shows that in 12 Western States:

  • The federal government has offered 229.0 million acres of public and private land in 12 Western States for oil and gas drilling, according to an EWG analysis of land use records maintained by the federal government from 1982 to the present. This acreage represents the sum of total land actively leased in 1982 and land newly offered from 1982 through 2004. [see details]
  • Drilling on these lands has done nothing to reduce our dependence on foreign energy. In fact, since 1982, our dependence on foreign oil has nearly doubled and our dependence on foreign natural gas has nearly tripled (EIA Petroleum Review 2004, EIA Natural Gas Review 2004). A recent government estimate found that the five most oil- and gas-rich basins in the western U.S. contain a 279-day supply of oil and an 8-year supply of natural gas at current rates of consumption -- an analysis that likely overstates the amount of energy that is economically available (Energy Inventory 2003).
  • Oil produced in the Western United States from 1989-2003 totals 973.8 million barrels, an average of 3.6 day(s) of U.S. consumption per year.
  • Natural gas produced in the Western United States from 1989-2003 totals 13.2 trillion cubic feet, an average of 14.8 day(s) of U.S. consumption per year.
  • Based on an EWG analysis of oil and gas production data on western lands, the top three oil and gas producers in the Western United States since 1989 are Burlington Resources, BP America, and ChevronTexaco Corporation. [see details] These data were obtained by EWG from the Minerals Management Service under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • For total lands held under lease, the top three states in the nation are Wyoming, New Mexico, and Colorado. The top three companies holding leases in the nation are Yates Petroleum Corp, Encana Oil & Gas Inc, and Tom Brown Inc.
  • Despite the relatively small amounts of energy in the Western United States, the Bush administration has removed barriers to drilling on a net 44,545,979 acres of Western public land, and increased pressure on local land managers to approve drilling. [see details]
  • Between 2000 and 2004, the oil and gas industry poured more than $75 million into political campaigns, with 79 percent going to Republicans, money that may have influenced administration decisions opening protected public lands to drilling (CRP 2004). [see details]

Summary of leasing in 12 Western States

Leased or offered since 1982: 228,972,544 acres
 Private surface lands leased: 47,545,641 acres
 Federal public lands leased: 181,426,902 acres
 Federal lands leasable: 0 acres

Currently leased: 34,946,492 acres
 Number of lessees: 8,604
 Percent of acres producing oil or gas: 23 %

Top states
(ranked on currently leased acreage):
New Mexico

Top Lessees
(ranked on currently leased acreage):
Yates Petroleum Corp
Encana Oil & Gas Inc
Tom Brown Inc

Source: EWG analysis of leasing and drilling records in 12 western states, contained in the Bureau of Land Management's Land and Mineral Records 2000 database, acquired by EWG May 15 2004.

Production of Oil and Gas in the Western United States on Federal Land

Year Oil Produced Gas Produced
BarrelsConsumed in1000
cubic feet
Consumed in
198956,137,505(3.2 days)405,726,307(7.7 days)
199074,510,240(4.4 days)607,310,205(11.6 days)
199172,347,396(4.3 days)639,901,433(11.9 days)
199271,602,576(4.2 days)734,219,969(13.2 days)
199367,786,174(3.9 days)832,551,990(14.6 days)
199466,665,547(3.8 days)877,762,338(15.1 days)
199566,096,078(3.7 days)838,081,517(13.8 days)
199666,757,738(3.6 days)887,947,826(14.3 days)
199768,086,836(3.7 days)938,990,051(15.1 days)
199864,544,816(3.4 days)966,078,469(15.9 days)
199961,914,194(3.2 days)993,092,221(16.2 days)
200063,041,686(3.2 days)1,050,424,962(16.4 days)
200160,884,830(3.1 days)1,107,898,119(18.2 days)
200259,401,033(3.0 days)1,173,824,116(18.6 days)
200354,030,523(2.7 days)1,136,853,084(18.9 days)
Total*973,807,1723.6 days
per year
13,190,662,60714.8 days
per year

* Consumption rates listed in table reflect national average consumption during the entire available period of record for oil and gas production on western lands (typically 1989 through 2003). Consumption rates were compiled by EWG from U.S. Department of Energy data.

EWG analysis of oil and gas production data contained in Oil and Gas Operations Report 1989-2003 database, Minerals Management Service, received August 16 2004 in response to Freedom of Information Act request filed by EWG

Companies producing Oil and Gas in the Western United States on Federal Land from 1989-2003

Company Oil Produced
Gas Produced
(1000 cubic feet)
Burlington Resources17,544,9521,900,859,411
BP America102,549,1481,542,902,941
ChevronTexaco Corporation125,056,983969,534,508
Devon Energy Corporation68,747,751604,153,117
Encana Oil & Gas Inc5,961,464545,234,194
Marathon Oil Co46,448,306474,069,549
EOG Resources Inc17,687,473473,747,402
Yates Petroleum Corp26,367,999403,415,376
The Williams Companies3,297,968404,669,426

EWG analysis of oil and gas production data contained in Oil and Gas Operations Report 1989-2003 database, Minerals Management Service, received August 16 2004 in response to Freedom of Information Act request filed by EWG