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Bureau of Land Management
For Immediate Release: Thursday, October 6, 2005

Federal Register Notice
Celia Boddington/Heather Feeney
(202) 452-5125

BLM Finalizes Regulatory Changes to Recover Costs of Processing Minerals-Related Documents

The Bureau of Land Management will publish in tomorrow’s Federal Register a new set of regulations that will enable the agency to recover more of its costs in processing documents related to mineral applications and operations on public lands.

The BLM final regulations, or “rule,” respond to recommendations by the Interior Department’s Office of the Inspector General, which found that the BLM needed to do more to recover its document-processing costs.

The BLM proposed the new rule on July 19, 2005, but modified that proposal following passage of the Energy Policy Act of 2005 in August. The Act requires the BLM to defer fees for processing oil and gas Applications for Permits to Drill (APDs) and Geothermal Permits to Drill (GPDs) until the agency completes a pilot project to improve the coordination of oil and gas permitting among Federal agencies. Fees originally proposed for geophysical and geothermal exploration permits have also been deferred in the final rule.

The BLM’s proposal to recover certain costs remains unchanged, including those costs associated with processing applications related to coal, non-energy leasable minerals, and mineral materials, as well as costs associated with administering mining claims. In the new rule, fees for these applications are grouped in two categories. One, known as case-by-case fees, will cover BLM actions whose costs vary widely with each individual application. The other category, fixed fees, are predictable and will cover costs for which there is reliable data. In cases where the Bureau cannot establish a reliable fixed fee, the rule requires calculation of a case-specific fee.

Public comment on the proposed rule closed on August 18, 2005. The final rule includes several changes from the proposed rule based on the BLM’s review of the comments received, including several specifications on how case-by-case fees will be applied; partial relief of the adjudication fee for patent applications that involve a small number of claims; a phase-in of the adjudication fee for mining patent applications involving 10 or fewer claims, and a change in the method for adjusting fees to account for inflation.

The Bureau estimates that once the rule is fully implemented, the agency will recover about $2.8 million more annually in fixed fees. The BLM will also collect additional fees on a case-by-case basis, as described in the rule.

The BLM manages 262 million surface acres, located mostly in 12 Western States, including Alaska – more land than any other Federal agency. With a budget of about $1.8 billion, the Bureau also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the U.S. Managing these lands gives the BLM a central role in implementing the Energy Policy Act of 2005. Acting as steward of numerous energy resources – coal, oil and gas, geothermal, hydropower, solar, wind, and biomass energy resources – is part of the agency’s multiple-use mission to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.