BILLINGS, Mont. (AP) — A U.S. government watchdog agency is faulting the Trump administration’s handling of a COVID-19 relief effort that awarded energy companies breaks on payments for oil and gas extracted from public lands in Western states in more than 500 cases.

The Bureau of Land Management gave breaks on royalty payments from companies after the pandemic shut down much of the economy.

The Trump administration also gave breaks to companies that extract oil in the Gulf of Mexico, but it has refused to release details.

Most of the approvals were in Wyoming, with cases also approved in Utah, Colorado and by a bureau office that covers Montana, North Dakota and South Dakota.

Enter your number to get our free mobile app