Zinke Signs Secretarial Order to Streamline Process for Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Permits


Department of the Interior

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U.S. Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke today signed a secretarial order to tackle permitting backlogs and delays, identify solutions to improve the permitting process on federal lands, and to identify solutions to improve access to additional parcels of federal land that are appropriate for mineral development. As of January 31, 2017, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had 2,802 Applications for Permit to Drill (APD) pending.

Despite the fact that statute requires that the Department and the BLM process APD review within 30 days, the average time to process an APD in FY16 was 257 days. The directive will improve the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program and the Federal Solid Mineral Leasing Program, which is a major source of income for the federal government and a critical component of American Energy Dominance.

“Oil and gas production on federal lands is an important source of revenue and job growth in rural America but it is hard to envision increased investment on federal lands when a federal permit can take the better part of a year or more in some cases. This is why I'm directing the BLM to conduct quarterly lease sales and address these permitting issues. We are also looking at opportunities to bring support to our front line offices who are facing the brunt of this workload.” said Secretary Zinke. “This is just good government and will further support the President's goal of American energy dominance.”

As of January 31, 2017, the BLM had 2,802 APDs pending. The five BLM field offices with the highest number of pending APDs are listed below which account for 2,060 or approximately 74 percent of the total pending APDs.

  • Casper, Wyoming: APDs pending: 526

  • Vernal, Utah: APDs pending: 506

  • Dickinson, North Dakota: APDs pending: 488

  • Carlsbad/Hobbs, New Mexico: APDs pending: 388

  • Farmington, New Mexico: APDs pending: 152

Last year the Department canceled or postponed eleven lease sales. By contrast, the Trump Administration has already held more lease sales in the first six months than in the previous year, offered more acreage in those sales, and raised more revenue than in the same time period last year.

“The Department of the Interior will be a better neighbor in the new Trump Administration,” Zinke added. “As is outlined in this order, we 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.”

Secretarial Order 3354 directs the BLM to make both federal oil and gas resources and solid mineral resources on the public lands available for the benefit of the citizens of the United States. The Order is in compliance with the Mineral Leasing ACT (30 U.S.C. § 226), which requires oil and gas lease sales “be held for each State where eligible lands are available at least quarterly and more frequently if the Secretary of the Interior determines such sales are necessary.”

The order also directs the BLM to address permitting backlogs and identify areas where improvements can be made in the permitting process to ensure the safe and timely exploration and development of our nation's federal energy resources.

Currently, an applicant pays a non-refundable $9,610 processing fee to the BLM per APD filed. Approved APDs are valid for two years from the date of approval as long as the lease does not expire during that time. For FY18, the President's budget proposal includes a $16 million increase in the Oil and Gas Management program to support permitting and rights-of-way processing.

The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of public land located primarily in 12 western states, including Alaska, on behalf of the American people. The BLM also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. Our mission is to sustain the health, diversity, and productivity of America’s public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations.