UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240
 
September 13, 2005
 
                                                                             In Reply Refer To:
                                                                             3100 (310) P
 
EMS TRANSMISSION 09/15/2005
Instruction Memorandum No. 2005-235
Expires: 09/30/2006
 
To:              AFOs
Attn: WO-300 Group Managers
 
From:          Director
 
Subject:       Interim Guidance for Process Time Line - Permitting Oil and Gas Operations on Federal and Indian Leases
                                               
Program Area:   Oil and Gas Operations – Processing Applications for Permit to Drill (APD)
                                    
Purpose: This Instruction Memorandum (IM) provides interim guidance for processing APDs consistently with the Energy Policy Act of 2005 (Act). The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) offices should use this interim guidance until the Onshore Oil and Gas Order No. 1 (Order 1), Approval of Operations, is revised to include the subject provisions from the Energy Act.
 
Policy/Action: The following process time line supersedes Section III.E, Processing Time Frames, in the current Order 1 that was published in 1983. The BLM will still post each APD for public notice for 30 days prior to making a decision. Posting will occur as soon as possible after each APD is filed. This is not a change to existing practice.  The Notice of Staking Option is still available.
 
          The timeframes established in this subsection apply to both individual APDs and to the multiple APDs included in Master Development Plans.
 
          (a) Within 10 days of receiving an application, BLM, in consultation with the Forest Service (FS) if appropriate, will notify the operator as to whether or not the application is complete. BLM will request additional information and correction if necessary. An onsite inspection must be performed before an application will be considered to be complete. Within 10 days of receiving the application, BLM, in coordination with the operator and Surface Managing Agency if appropriate or the private surface owner in the case of reserved

minerals, will schedule a future date for the onsite inspection unless the onsite inspection was held as part of a Notice of Staking. The onsite inspection will be held as soon as practicable based on schedules and weather conditions. If there is enough information to begin processing the application, BLM and the FS if appropriate, will do so up to the point that missing information or uncorrected deficiencies render further processing impractical or impossible. The operator has 45 days after receiving notice from BLM to provide any additional information necessary to complete the APD, or the APD may be returned to the operator.
 
(b) Within 30 days after the operator has submitted a complete application including incorporating any changes that resulted from the onsite inspection the BLM will:
(1) approve the application subject to reasonable conditions of approval if the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA), Endangered Species Act (ESA), or other applicable law have been completed and, if on FS lands, FS has approved the Surface Use Plan of Operations; or
(2) notify the operator that it is deferring action on the permit.
 
(c) The notice of deferral in (b) (2) must specify:
(1) any action the operator could take that would enable BLM to issue a final decision on the application, with FS concurrence if appropriate. Actions may include but are not limited to:
·        Assistance with data gathering
·        Assistance with preparation of analyses and documents;
(2) and if necessary, a list of actions that BLM or the FS, if appropriate, need to take, including completing requirements of NEPA or other applicable law and a schedule for completing these actions.
 
(d) The operator has 2 years from the date of the notice under (c) (1) to take the action specified in the notice. If all analyses required by NEPA, NHPA, ESA and other applicable laws have been prepared, BLM and with FS concurrence, if appropriate, shall make a decision on the permit within 10 days of receiving a report from the operator addressing all of the issues or actions specified in the (c) (1) notice and certifying that all required actions have been taken. If the operator has not completed the actions specified in the notice, BLM may deny the permit at any time later than 2 years from the operator’s receipt of the (c) (1) notice.
 
 (e) For APDs on National Forest System lands, the decision to approve a Surface Use Plan of Operations or Master Development Plan may be subject to the current applicable FS appeal procedures and may take up to 105 days from the date of the decision before that decision can be implemented. 
 
Background:  This IM is to provide guidance to implement the provisions of Section 366 of the Act, Deadline for Consideration of Applications for Permits, while BLM prepares further revisions to Order 1 to conform to that section. The Act was signed after the BLM published proposed changes to Order 1 in the Federal Register for comment on July 27, 2005, page 43349. Order 1 contains a processing time line in paragraph III.C.2 that must be revised to be consistent with the processing time line in the Act.
 
Time Frame:  This IM is effective immediately.
 
Budget Impact: Implementation of the new policy in this IM can be accommodated under existing budget allocations.
 
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: These requirements as implemented by the proposed Order 1 will be incorporated into the updated versions of BLM Manual 3160.
 
Coordination: This IM was coordinated with the Office of the Solicitor.
 
Contact: For questions, call Jim Burd at (202) 452-5017.
 
Signed by:
Authenticated by:
Jim M. Hughes
Barbara J. Brown
Acting Director
Policy & Records Group, WO-560