U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke on Thursday issued a secretarial order to deal with the backlog of 2,802 applications for drilling permits on federal land that faced long delays under the Obama administration and its anti-fossil fuel energy agenda.
The order will also access additional federal lands that are appropriate for mineral development.
“As of January 31, 2017, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had 2,802 Applications for Permit to Drill (APD) pending,” the press release announcing the order said.
“Despite the fact that statute requires that the Department and the BLM process APD review within 30 days, the average time to process an APD in FY16 was 257 days,” the press release said.
The order pertains to the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program and the Federal Solid Mineral Leasing Program, which is “a major source of income for the federal government and a critical component of American Energy Dominance,” according to the press release. Zinke said:
Oil and gas production on federal lands is an important source of revenue and job growth in rural America but it is hard to envision increased investment on federal lands when a federal permit can take the better part of a year or more in some cases. This is why I’m directing the BLM to conduct quarterly lease sales and address these permitting issues.
We are also looking at opportunities to bring support to our front line offices who are facing the brunt of this workload. This is just good government and will further support the President [Donald Trump’s] goal of American energy dominance.
Sunrise Mountain Oil and Gas, a new Colorado-based exploration and production firm with plans to work on public land in five western states, praised Zinke’s order.
“Our allies in the Trump administration are working to deregulate drilling on federal lands, where for too long the focus has been on protecting our public landscapes,” John P. Dottson, chief executive officer of the firm, said. “We heard the President’s call loud and clear.
“We need energy dominance now because energy independence just isn’t enough for us,” Dottson said.
“We’re proud to respond to Secretary Zinke’s promise of endless drilling opportunities near our National Forests, Parks, and BLM lands,” Matt Potter-Smith, director of operations, said. “Americans have been sitting on these undeveloped resources for far too long.”
“We applaud the administration’s steps to help strengthen the United States’ energy position,” Erik Milito, upstream and industry operations group director with the American Petroleum Institute, said. “A key component of a successful policy is repairing the federal permitting process so that companies have the confidence to invest and see their projects move forward.”
The five BLM field offices with the highest number of pending APDs are listed below and account for 2,060, or about 74 percent of the total pending APDs.
•Casper, Wyoming: APDs pending: 526
•Vernal, Utah: APDs pending: 506
•Dickinson, North Dakota: APDs pending: 488
•Carlsbad/Hobbs, New Mexico: APDs pending: 388
•Farmington, New Mexico: APDs pending: 152
The press release notes that last year, when former President Barack Obama was in office, the Department canceled or postponed eleven lease sales.
“By contrast, the Trump Administration has already held more lease sales in the first six months than in the previous year, offered more acreage in those sales, and raised more revenue than in the same time period last year,” the press release said.
“The Department of the Interior will be a better neighbor in the new Trump administration,” Zinke said. “As is outlined in this order, we will look at ways to improve the process and make sure regulations serve their intended purpose rather than create a mountain of useless paperwork.
“By streamlining approvals of responsible energy development on federal land, and actually holding lease sales, we will generate revenue for local communities and the Treasury to fund the things we all value like National Parks, infrastructure and education,” Zinke said.
The DOI press release said that President Trump’s proposed federal budget for fiscal year 2018 includes a $16 million increase in the oil and gas management program to support permitting and rights-of-way processing.