Note: This Associated Press story originally appeared in the Albuquerque Journal.
The State Land Office has set a record for its monthly oil and gas lease sale, generating more than $43 million for public schools and other trust land beneficiaries as the oil boom continues in New Mexico.
The November sale represents the highest single-month yield in the agency’s history. The previous record of just over $30 million was set in July 2017.
Land Commissioner Aubrey Dunn said in a statement issued Tuesday that he was expecting a good month but was surprised by the outcome. He said it will help with the goal of generating $1 billion in revenues for the current fiscal year.
The State Land Office, one of the most powerful agencies in New Mexico, oversees oil and gas drilling, renewable energy projects and other development on millions of acres of state trust land. Revenues from the monthly oil and gas lease sales and other activities help to fund public schools, higher education, hospitals, the state penitentiary and infrastructure projects.
In all, 35 tracts covering more than 12 square miles (32 square kilometers) were up for bid this month in Lea, Chaves and McKinley counties. All but one tract was leased and another ended up being withdrawn.
The oil and gas sector is mostly behind a significant budget surplus that New Mexico Gov.-elect Michelle Lujan Grisham and the state Legislature will be able to tap as they set spending priorities for the next fiscal year.
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