The Trump administration is aggressively sweeping aside regulations protecting public land to clear a path for expanded oil and gas drilling.
A memorandum from the Interior Department, made public Thursday, directs its field offices “to simplify and streamline the leasing process” so that federal leases to the oil and gas industry can be expedited “to ensure quarterly oil and gas lease sales are consistently held.”
According to the memo, which was dated Wednesday, doing so will ease such “impediments and burdens” as months-long environmental reviews that assess the impacts of drilling and potential spills on land and wildlife.
The new approach requires the Bureau of Land Management to process a proposed lease within six months. Once-mandatory public participation in safety reviews is now left to the discretion of the agency’s field representatives. Public protests of finalized leases will be shortened to 10 days, and a sale can move forward even if disputes are unresolved, according to the memo.
Interior also ended “Master Lease Plans” implemented under the Obama administration to give hunters, anglers and groups hoping to protect cultural artifacts a voice in how public land should be managed when parcels are proposed for leasing.
The moves are consistent with an executive order President Trump issued in his first days in office to fulfill his campaign goal of “expediting environmental reviews and approvals” to fast-track efforts to fix the country’s roadways and bridges. Trump’s order was later followed by a similar order from Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
The bureau’s changes were announced just one day before Interior is scheduled to allow new leasing and mining on millions of protected acres in national monuments. On Friday morning, companies and individuals can stake mining claims in two Utah monuments Trump plans to reduce: Grand Staircase-Escalante and Bears Ears.
The bureau boasted in a statement Thursday that its state offices generated $360 million from sales of oil and gas leases last year, an 86 percent increase from 2016. Rights to parcels covering nearly 793,000 acres of public land were sold. BLM Deputy Director Brian Steed said the revenue increase is “hard proof that our sound energy policy is working for both public lands and Americans in terms of reliable power and job growth opportunities.”
SOURCE: Washington Post
Compiled and Published by GIB KNIGHT
Gib Knight is a private oil and gas investor and consultant, providing clients advanced analytics and building innovative visual business intelligence solutions to visualize the results, across a broad spectrum of regulatory filings and production data in Oklahoma and Texas. He is the founder of OklahomaMinerals.com, an online resource designed for mineral owners in Oklahoma.