Interior Finalizes Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reforms

THE FEDERAL BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT finalized several reforms to its onshore oil and gas program today, as part of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar’s promise to change how the Department of the Interior does business, according to a media release from the U.S. Department of the Interior.

The reforms will improve environmental protection of important natural resources on U.S. public lands while aiding in the orderly leasing and balanced development of the nation’s energy supply, the release said.

Click here or on the image to the right to read the full text of the release.

Click here to read the memorandum to all BLM field offices on land use planning and parcel reviews.

Click here to read the memorandum to all BLM field offices on categorical exclusions.

“We must continue to move forward quickly and responsibly on our agenda to reform the management of our nation’s onshore and offshore energy resources and our oversight of the companies that develop them,” said Secretary Salazar.

“The BLM reforms we are finalizing today establish a more orderly, open, and environmentally sound process for developing oil and gas resources on public lands. The BP oil spill is a stark reminder of how we must continue to push ahead with the reforms we have been working on and which we know are needed.”

“These reforms take a fresh look — from inside the Federal government and from outside — at how we can better manage Americans’ energy resources,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey. “They will improve protections for land, water, and wildlife, and reduce potential conflicts that can lead to costly and time-consuming protests and litigation of leases. The reforms will also move control of the leasing process from Washington, DC, to the field.”

The following changes are included in the reforms, according to the DOI:

  • Engage the public in the development of master leasing plans prior to leasing in certain areas where significant new oil and gas development is anticipated. The intent is to fully consider other important natural resource values before making a decision on leasing and development in an area.
  • Ensure potential lease sales are fully coordinated both internally and externally, including public participation, and interdisciplinary review of available information, as well as on-site visits to parcels prior to leasing when necessary to supplement or validate existing data.
  • Require an “extraordinary circumstances” review screen before applying the categorical exclusions in the Energy Policy Act of 2005 to oil and gas drilling activities on BLM lands. Categorical exclusions are categories of actions that do not have a significant effect on the quality of the human environment, and for which the BLM is generally not required to prepare extensive environmental reviews.
  • A review for extraordinary circumstances has been required for all administratively-established categorical exclusions, and will now apply to oil and gas categorical exclusions established by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, as well.

In January, Secretary Salazar outlined the reforms that BLM is finalizing today. Many of the reforms follow the recommendations of an interdisciplinary review team that studied a controversial 2008 oil and gas lease sale in Utah.

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