UNITED STATES DEPARTMENT OF THE INTERIOR
BUREAU OF LAND MANAGEMENT
WASHINGTON, D.C. 20240
http://www.blm.gov
 
July 24, 2009
 
In Reply Refer To:
3120 (310) P
 
EMS TRANSMISSION 07/30/2009
Instruction Memorandum No. 2009-184
Expires: 09/30/2010
 
To:                      State Directors
 
From:                   Acting Assistant Director, Minerals and Realty Management
 
Subject:               Courtesy Notification of Surface Owners When Split Estate Lands are Included in an Oil and Gas Notice of Competitive Lease Sale
 
Program Area:  Oil and Gas Leasing.
 
Purpose: This Instruction Memorandum (IM) establishes a Bureau of Land Management (BLM) requirement to notify surface owners, as a courtesy, whenever split estate lands are included in an oil and gas Notice of Competitive Lease Sale. The BLM’s notification serves as a reasonable attempt to inform surface owners when their lands are included in a list of lands to be offered for competitive sale. This courtesy notification will provide basic information on  Federal oil and gas leasing, the Oil and Gas (O&G) development process, and applicable O&G regulation. The notification will also include any special stipulations attached to the parcels that include their lands.
 
Policy/Action: Effective with the issuance of this memorandum, parties filing an Expression of Interest (EOI) to offer lands at a competitive oil and gas lease sale are required to provide the names and addresses of any surface owners where split estate lands are included in their EOI. Any new EOI including split estate lands that does not provide the name and address of the surface owner(s) will not be processed or listed in a competitive oil and gas sale until the required information is received. The State Office (SO) will return the EOI to the nominator with a letter advising of the new requirement.
 
If a SO has a pending EOI that includes split estate lands, the BLM must inform the party filing the EOI of the new requirement. This should be completed in the most efficient method possible, whether by letter or phone call. All phone calls should be documented. Also, depending on what is most efficient for the SO, the EOI may be held as pending until the surface owner information is provided.  The BLM may have to return the letter to the party filing the EOI to request that the EOI be resubmitted with the required information if there is still interest in having the lands offered for lease.

Effective with the issuance of this memorandum, the SOs will use the courtesy notification form letter (attachment 1) to notify surface owners whenever split estate lands are included in an oil and gas Notice of Competitive Lease Sale. The letter is to be sent by regular mail when the Notice of Competitive Lease Sale is posted. Use the name and address provided with the EOI to send the notification letter. The SOs are not required to expend any additional time or effort to verify surface owner names and addresses or research alternative names and addresses if delivery to the provided name and address is unsuccessful. This is a courtesy notice. An unsuccessful delivery of the letter is not a reason to withdraw a parcel from the lease sale.

Establishing the requirement to provide surface owner names and addresses
 
Attachment 2 is a notice to announce this requirement. Effective with the issuance of this instruction, each SO must include this notice with at least two consecutive Notices of Competitive Lease Sale. In addition, an announcement of this requirement must be included in the opening remarks at two area competitive lease auctions, at a minimum. Each SO is to modify the Notice of Lease Sale and relevant web pages to include this requirement in describing how a party files an EOI.
 
BLM nominated parcels
 
The policy to send this courtesy notice also applies to BLM-nominated split estate lands included in an oil and gas Notice of Competitive Lease Sale. In such cases, it is incumbent upon the BLM to obtain the names and addresses of the surface owners. This IM does not dictate the method to be used to obtain this information, because the location of, and access to, such information varies from state to state and county to county. State and Field Offices are encouraged to research and use the most efficient and cost-effective methods possible.
 
Relationship to other BLM policies and procedures regarding split estate lands and oil and gas leasing
 
This policy does not cancel, replace, or modify any existing policy or procedures regarding split estate lands, particularly relating to land use planning and National Environmental Policy Act compliance. It is limited to the notification of surface owners whenever split estate lands are offered at auction.
 
Timeframe: The requirement to obtain surface owner name and addresses from parties filing an EOI is effective immediately. The requirement to notify surface owners whenever split estate lands are included in an oil and gas Notice of Competitive Lease Sale is effective October 1, 2010.
 
Budget Impact: There will be minor expenses incurred by the SOs to prepare, print, and send the required letters to surface owners. Researching the names and addresses of surface owners for BLM-nominated parcels will require some additional expenses. However, it is anticipated that the number and frequency of such nominations are not significant.
 
Background: As a result of work done to implement portions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 relating to split estate lands, BLM offices increased their efforts to provide split estate surface owners more information and notice regarding oil and gas leasing activities.  However, these actions do not include direct notification of the surface owner when split estate parcels are going to be offered at auction, except in Eastern States and New Mexico and the start of a recent pilot effort in Montana. The Rocky Mountain State Directors suggested that a uniform and broadly applied BLM policy should be considered and implemented so that all SOs are providing the same notification to surface owners in the same manner.
 
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: This policy will be included inthe BLM Manual 3120 –Competitive Leases, and BLM Handbook H-3120-1 – Competitive Leases, when they are next updated.
 
Coordination: This policy was developed in coordination with staff from Colorado, Eastern States, Montana, New Mexico, Utah, and Wyoming. A draft of this Instruction Memorandum was provided to all State Directors for review and comment.
 
Contact: If you have any questions concerning the content of this IM, please contact me at 202-208-4201, or your staff may contact Robyn Shoop at 202-452-0334 or robyn_shoop@blm.gov.
 
 
Signed by:                                                                   Authenticated by:
Jeff Holdren                                                                 Robert M. Williams
Acting, Assistant Director                                            Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Minerals and Realty Management
 
 
2 Attachments