Interest slows in mineral leases on Oklahoma's public school land

Few companies want to explore what's under Oklahoma's public school land because of continued low natural gas prices, state officials are told. Interest has dropped off from nearly 350 tracts of land in January 2011 to less than 30 for a mineral lease auction set for November.
BY MICHAEL MCNUTT mmcnutt@opubco.com Published: September 14, 2012
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The agency, coming off record earnings last year, put $25 million in a revolving fund to supplement this year's earnings.

“We'll have some funds that we can fill in the gaps,” he said.

The agency this fiscal year plans to distribute at least $93 million to public schools, the same amount distributed in the 2011 fiscal year, Birdwell said.

Schools, colleges and universities got a record amount of money last fiscal year from the Commissioners of the Land Office. They received $140.6 million, surpassing the fiscal year 2011 amount by $16.5 million or 13 percent. The amount was the highest since the agency's inception before statehood.

But earnings so far this fiscal year, which started July 1, came in at $13.3 million, compared with $40.9 million for the same time period a year ago, Birdwell said. August earnings were $6.2 million compared with $11.6 million for the same month last year.

The agency was created to manage lands granted to the state to benefit public education. It earns money from surface land leases, investments and mineral leases.