CASPER, Wyo. â€” A Wyoming petroleum reserve that was the focus of the 1920s Teapot Dome bribery scandal could be taken over by a private company.
Officials at the federally owned Naval Petroleum Reserve No. 3 as well as the Department of Energy's Rocky Mountain Oilfield Testing Center have been told to prepare the facilities for disposal, the Casper Star-Tribune (http://bit.ly/Y8J5a0 ) reported Monday.
Both facilities are located at the site.
Testing center director Clark Turner said he doesn't expect the government to keep the oil field and indicated leasing and selling the field will be options. He expects a decision this spring.
A member of President Warren G. Harding's cabinet ended up in prison for bribery after leasing the Teapot Dome field's reserves to private companies at low rates without any bidding in 1922.
Former Interior Secretary Albert B. Fall went on trial in Washington, D.C., in 1929. He was found guilty of accepting a bribe from oil tycoon Edward L. Doheny and served nine months in prison.
Doheny, however, was acquitted at trial of offering the bribe that Fall was convicted of taking.
The field and scandal were named after nearby Teapot Rock, a sandstone formation that looked like a teapot.
The Department of Energy has controlled the field since 1977. The center, established in 1993, has been used to test hydraulic fracturing and enhanced oil recovery.
Turner said a shrinking budget has led to fewer and fewer tests at the center. The field still produces oil, earning taxpayers about $5 million a year, but Turner said that's not enough to justify the government keeping it.
Petroleum Association of Wyoming president Bruce Hinchey expects there to be interest in the property.
"I don't know how much oil is left, but I'm sure it's still attractive because there's a lot of oil in the area," he said.