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General Land Office Touts Move Online

The Texas General Land Office says it held the first online oil and gas lease auction in the state’s history on Tuesday, netting some $20 million for public schools. Land Commissioner George P. Bush is taking credit for the move.

Land Commissioner George P. Bush shakes hands with Texas Alliance for Life Director Joseph Pojman at the Texas Capitol on Ja…

The agency that manages the state’s vast mineral wealth is touting a move online.

The Texas General Land Office says it held the first online oil and gas lease auction in the state’s history on Tuesday, netting some $20 million for public schools. Land Commissioner George P. Bush is taking credit for the move, saying it showcases his efforts to modernize the agency during his first year in public office.  

“With today's online energy lease sale I've delivered on my promise to make the bidding process more accessible and more efficient, while earning even more money for Texas schools,” Bush said in a statement.

The land office typically holds two to four lease auctions each year, where private companies bid against each other for the right to explore for petroleum on state-owned lands. Previously, those companies had to physically submit their bids in sealed envelopes – a process, the agency said, that had changed little over the past 60 years.

Tuesday’s sale took place on EnergyNet, an online platform for lease auctions that has also helped broker lease sales for the states of Colorado, North Dakota, Utah and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management. 

The auction brought in roughly $20 million — $1,500 more per acre than the last sale, held in January, the land office said. That money will flow to the state’s Permanent School Fund, which will also earn up to 25 percent in royalties from oil and gas produced on the land.

Since being sworn in last January, Bush, a former energy investment consultant, has portrayed himself as an innovator and reformer at the agency, which oversees more than 13 million acres of mineral rights and deposited more than $1.2 billion into the fund in the year before Bush assumed office. Those reforms have included consolidating several divisions within the agency.

Last week, after a state audit found problems with the agency's contracting process that predated his arrival, Bush trumpeted a "reboot" at the Land Office that involved adopting what he called a type of "21st century Uber-style management in a highly networked, fast-moving world."

Bush has ousted several of the office's longtime employees during the reorganization.

Recently, three high-level officials – whom Bush touted in press releases just months earlier – left after decades at the agency. That included Joey Longley, director of program management; Jorge Ramirez, who headed the coastal resiliency and recovery program; and Rene Truan, director of the new Permanent School Fund Income Division.

An agency spokesman confirmed the departures but refused to comment on them. 

Some of the changes have irked Bush's predecessor Jerry Patterson, who, following last week's audit, suggested that Bush was dropping him "in the grease" by failing to push back against the auditor's findings. 

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