The oil and gas industry has been allowed to pay far less than usual to the government for the right to drill on public lands under a controversial Trump administration coronavirus relief policy, an analysis by a watchdog group and the Guardian reveals.

The Bureau of Land Management has granted economic relief for drilling on land leased by the energy giants BP and ExxonMobil, according to records from the bureau.

In many cases, royalties have been reduced to 0.5% for up to two months, according to an analysis of Bureau of Land Management records by the watchdog group Accountable.US.

Chris Saeger, a spokesman for Accountable.US, said the Trump administration was “using the pandemic as cover to help its special interest allies and American taxpayers are left holding the bill”.

“Bailing out wealthy corporations with the public’s money while millions of Americans are struggling is irresponsible,” Saeger said.