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Permitting and Operations on Federal Lands in California

Oil rigsCalifornia staff have been active participants in nationwide BLM efforts to improve permit processing and coordination with other state and federal agencies. In addition, several intiatives to streamline the permitting process have been implemented at the national level, while other efforts are ongoing. For more information, please utilize one or more of the following links: 

Helpful Guides to Federal Oil and Gas Regulations
  • Oil and Gas Operations Regulations (43 CFR 3160)  Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) governing operations associated with the exploration, development and production of oil and gas on federal and Indian lands. Users may download official versions of CFR sections from the Government Printing Office official website (ASCII Text or Adobe Acrobat versions available).
  • Onshore Oil and Gas Orders
    Onshore Oil and Gas Orders clarify and supplement the regulations found at 43 CFR 3160 for conducting oil and gas operations on Federal or Indian lands. 
  • Notice-To-Lessees (NTL's) supplement or clarify the regulations found at 43 CFR Part 3160 for oil and gas operations for specific types of activities or to address local or regional issues. 
Drilling Operations on Federal Lands (Onshore operations)
  • For more information and detailed instructions on obtaining approval to drill for oil and gas, please contact Silvet Holcomb, Bakersfield Field Office directly at (661) 391- 6137.
  • Best Management Practices for Oil and Gas Development on the Public Lands User friendly guide with examples to help minimize (or eliminate) adverse impacts of oil and gas development on public health and the environment, landowners, and natural resources; enhances the value of natural and landowner resources; and reduces conflict.
  • Surface Operating Standards - link to the newly revised (2006) Gold Book for oil and gas exploration and development.
  • Standard Environmental Colors Chart - suggested colors which may minimize visual impacts for oil field installations. Please Note: This computer image is provided for informational purposes only and should not be used for actual field use. To obtain a copy of the chart, please contact Silvet Holcomb at (661) 391-6137 or James Haerter at (916) 978-4366.
  • Supplemental Environmental Colors Chart, August 2004Please Note: this chart does not replace the standard Environmental colors chart, but merely provides additional color choices. As above, the computer image is provided for informational purposes only. Please request a copy of the actual chart from your local BLM office.

Electronic versions of standard forms for Oil and Gas related activities are also available online, using the following links:

Electronic Permitting

The Bureau of Land Management's Well Information System (WIS) was developed to allow federal operators to submit their permits electronically to eliminate the need for a paper form, and to expedite data entry and permit processing. For more information, or to make arrangements to submit oil and gas permits electronically, please contact Paul Brown at (303) 236-8586 or email

Production and Abandonment 

The above links to onshore orders, NTL's, and BLM Manual Guidance outline specific procedures to follow when filing applications for all types of oil and gas operations on BLM administered leases in California. The following list provides guidance to specific orders which may apply.

  1. Disposal of Produced Water (Onshore Order No. 7) - Methods and approvals necessary to dispose of produced water associated with oil and gas operations.
  2. Spills and Reporting of Undesirable Events - Reporting requirements and notification regarding spills.
  3. Flaring and Venting of Gas (NTL-4A) - Reporting requirements and approval necessary for flaring and/or venting associated gas.
  4. Site Security, Measurement of Oil and Gas (Onshore Orders 3, 4, and 5) Requirements and standards for site security, and measurement of oil and gas.
  5. Hydrogen Sulfide Operations and Contingency Plan (Onshore Order 6) Requirements for conducting oil and gas operations in an environment known or expected to contain Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) gas.
  6. Well Abandonment and Reclamation (Onshore Orders 1 and 2, Gold Book) Requirements and guidelines for abandoning Federal wells, and performing surface reclamation actions. 
Geophysical Exploration

Geophysical Exploration Regulations (43 CFR 3150)
Regulations that govern Geophysical (Seismic)activity on Public lands administered by the Bureau of Land Management.

Geophysical Manual MS-3150
This Manual defines the Bureau of Land Management's responsibilities concerning surface management requirements, including the review, approval, and supervision of Geophysical (Seismic) activities for onshore Public lands.

Notice of Intent and Authorization to Conduct Oil and Gas Geophysical Exploration Operations

Parties wishing to conduct oil and gas geophysical exploration on Public Lands must submit a completed Notice of Intent and Authorization to Conduct Oil and Gas Geophysical Exploration Operations (Form 3150-4, June 2003) to the Field Manager of the appropriate BLM administrative office for approval. For questions regarding Geophysical Exploration Projects or Operations, please contact Nora Dedios in the Bakersfield Field Office at (661) 391-6129).

Notice of Completion of Oil and Gas Geophysical Exploration Operations

Parties completing oil and gas geophysical exploration on Public Lands must file a Notice of Completion of Oil and Gas Geophysical Exploration Operations (Form 3150-5 , June 2003).