The Trump administration’s policy of encouraging more oil and gas drilling combined with a loophole in federal rules has been a boon for investors with a taste for gambling — and has drawn criticism that it is a bad deal for taxpayers...
MILES CITY, Mont. — Robert B. Price, the chief executive of a London-based oil and gas company, came up with a creative tactic to grab bargain drilling rights to a sprawling piece of federal land here in eastern Montana — each acre for less than the price of a cup of coffee.
He first asked the Interior Department to auction off rights to as much as 200,000 acres in Montana through a process that allows energy companies to identify the public land they would like to develop. But when the auction took place last December, Mr. Price sat on the sidelines and waited for the clock to run out — betting no one else would bid.
His gamble worked. With no other bidders showing interest, the government allowed him to secure drilling rights on nearly 67,000 acres east of Miles City in a special noncompetitive sale the very next day. His cost: just $1.50 an acre a year in rent, compared with the more than $100-an-acre average paid by bidders, on top of rent, in competitive auctions in Montana in the final four years of the Obama administration…(CONTINUED)