Progress on Increasing Access to Federal Lands
Posted July 28, 2017
It’s a positive step – for U.S. energy, economic growth, consumer benefits and climate progress – for the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to begin rescinding its 2015 hydraulic fracturing rule – one that we argue duplicates existing and effective state regulation and risks delaying energy development, potentially impacting consumers. The Interior Department’s Katharine S. McGregor explains:
“Maintaining positive, productive working relationships with our state and tribal partners is a top priority of this Administration. We are committed to working collaboratively with them to ensure the safe and environmentally responsible development of our Nation’s energy resources. Our proposal to rescind the 2015 final rule responds to the President's call to reduce regulatory burdens, foster job growth, and serve the energy needs of America's families, small businesses, and manufacturers.”
And this from Interior’s Vincent DeVito:
“The Department of the Interior’s approach toward overseeing wells is to be better business partners and environmental stewards, which is in alignment with the Trump Administration’s across-the-board prioritization of domestic energy production.”
Both statements make important, encouraging points about the future of U.S. energy development. First, the early actions of new leadership in Washington recognize the vast good that can result from safe and responsible development of America’s energy wealth. Also, we see Interior acknowledging that eliminating unnecessary regulation will help advance the country’s energy interests and expedite energy’s benefits to U.S. consumers, businesses and manufacturers.
That BLM is working to rescind its fracking rule is evidence that the administration embraces the reality of America as the world’s leading natural gas and oil producer and wants to fully harness its energy potential. Erik Milito, API director of upstream and industry operations:
“Rescinding the rule enables the Bureau of Land Management to work with the states – not against them – to encourage investment on federal lands, create jobs, and promote America’s energy security. The BLM’s proposal can help fix increased regulatory hurdles to developing our domestic resources on America’s public lands, advancing 21st century American energy leadership.”
BLM’s rule would have added a layer of federal rules over effective state rules, resulting in inconsistency and uncertainty for operators and drillers and leading to increased costs and delays. These unhelpful impacts are especially felt in Western states where there’s lots of federally controlled acreage, such as New Mexico, Colorado and Wyoming. Hydraulic fracturing has been used safely for more than 60 years in large part because of robust state regulatory regimes. State regulators and industry have promoted transparency in fracking operations through FracFocus.org, the fracking fluid disclosure website supported by 1,560 participating companies and covering more than 127,000 wells.
Rescinding BLM’s fracking rule is welcome news. The agency should follow this up by moving swiftly to improve the permitting process for natural gas and oil development on federal lands, as Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke ordered earlier this month. This is needed to help reverse the recent negative trajectory of natural gas and oil development on lands controlled by Washington, seen in the number of new leases issued by BLM:
In the number of approved applications for natural gas and oil drilling permits:
While some states approve drilling permits within 10 days, the wait for federal drilling permits has averaged more than 200 days in recent years (including BLM processing and the time it takes operators to resolve issues cited by BLM in an application):
Zinke, commenting on his streamlining order:
“[W]e 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.”
In both ways – rescinding BLM’s unnecessary hydraulic fracturing rule and by streamlining the agency’s leasing and permitting processes – safe and responsible energy development can work to the benefit of the people of the United States in terms of jobs, economic growth, consumer savings and environmental protection.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and four grandchildren.
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