ABOUT THE BLM OIL AND GAS PROGRAM

Americans enjoy a quality of life today that depends largely upon a stable and abundant supply of affordable energy. The energy portfolio managed by the BLM includes oil and gas, coal, oil shale, tar sands, and increasingly, renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar and geothermal.

The BLM manages the Federal government’s onshore subsurface mineral estate – about 700 million acres (30% of the United States) held by the BLM, U.S. Forest Service and other Federal agencies and surface owners -- for the benefit of the American public. It also manages some aspects of the oil and gas development for Indian tribes from the Tribal mineral estate.

Oil and gas produced from the Federal and Tribal mineral estate are significant parts of the nation’s energy mix. For fiscal year (FY) 2018, sales of oil, gas, and natural gas liquids produced from the Federal and Tribal mineral estate accounted for approximately 8 percent of all oil, 9 percent of all natural gas, and 6 percent of all natural gas liquids produced in the United States.

But not every acre of that land is being developed for energy. About 26 million Federal acres were under lease to oil and gas developers at the end of FY 2018. Of that, about 12.8 million acres are producing oil and gas in economic quantities. This activity came from over 96,000 wells on about 24,000 producing oil and gas leases.

In FY 2018 the BLM generated nearly $3 billion in Federal royalties, rental payments and bonus bids. This is before accounting for a record $972 million in bonus bids from a lease sale held by the New Mexico State Office’s Roswell and Carlsbad Field Offices on September 5 and 6, 2018. During both FY 2018 and CY 2018, BLM lease sales generated over $1.1 billion in revenue from bonus bids, first-year rental fees, and administrative fees. For comparison, the BLM fluid minerals program spent about $165 million appropriated from Congress in FY 2018.

All Federal oil and gas royalty, rental fee, and bonus bid revenue is split about half between the U.S. Treasury and the states where development occurred. The amount of annual revenue that Federal mineral development provides to the U.S. Treasury is second only to that provided by the Internal Revenue Service.

Laws and Regulations

The BLM’s authority to manage the public’s oil and gas resources in the 48 contiguous states comes from two laws -- Mineral Leasing Act of 1920 as amended. Leasing authority in Alaska comes largely from the Naval Petroleum Reserves Production Act of 1976. Regulations derived from these statues and from the Federal Land Policy and Management Act of 1976 (FLPMA) are located in Title 43 of the Code of Federal Regulations, groups 3000 and 3100. Also In addition regulation under Mineral Lands and Mining Title 30 U.S.C. that may pertain include, Mineral Lands and Regulations in General (Ch.2, Sec.21); Lands Containing Coal, Oil, Gas, Salts, Asphaltic Materials, Sodium, Sulphur, and Building Stone (Ch.3, Sec.71);  Lease of Oil and Gas Deposits in or Under Railroads and Other Rights-of-Way  (Ch.5 Sec. 301);  Oil and Gas Royalty Management (Ch.29 Sec. 1701).  The code is a publication that can be found in law libraries, most larger libraries, or government depository libraries, and an electronic version is available from the Government Printing Office. 

The Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Simplification and Fairness Act of 1996 (PL 104-185) amended the Federal Oil and Gas Royalty Management Act, 30 U.S.C. 1701 et seq.  This act provides additional authority regarding records, inspection, and enforcement for onshore oil and gas operations, which the Department of the Interior's Office of Natural Resources Revenue (ONRR) manages.

When leasing minerals under U.S. Forest Service management, Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Reform Act of 1987 (FOOGLRA) applies, which grants the Forest Service the authority to make decisions and implement regulations concerning the leasing of their public domain minerals.  The BLM administers the lease but the Forest Service has more direct involvement in the leasing process for lands it administers. The Act also establishes a requirement that all public lands that are available for oil and gas leasing be offered first by competitive leasing.

Indian Tribes and Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA)

While the BLM provides technical assistance to Indian tribes and Indian mineral owners, the BLM does not lease Indian minerals in accordance with the 25 USC 177. The BLM works cooperatively with the BIA and tribes when analyzing impacts on site specific development proposals in tribal mineral estate accordance with National Historic Preservation Act (NHPA).   The BLM’s authorities and responsibilities include, but are not limited to, resource evaluation, approval of drilling permits, mining and reclamation, production plans, mineral appraisals, inspection and enforcement, and production verification.  The following are some of the laws and regulations for oil and gas leasing and development of tribal lands:

Other Helpful Links

Best Management Practices 

The BLM published the Gold Book to assist operators by providing information on best management practices (BMPs) for obtaining permit approval and conducting environmentally responsible oil and gas operations on federal lands and split-estate. Information about the Gold Book and the Gold Book’s text in its entirety are available at this link on the Oil and Gas Operations and Productions page.   

Energy Policy Act

Section 604 of the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 2000, as amended by Section 364 of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, required an inventory of all onshore Federal lands to identify: 

  • the United States Geological Survey estimates of the oil and gas resources underlying these lands; and
  • the extent and nature of any restrictions or impediments to the development of the resources…”  

EPCA required the Secretary of the Interior, in consultation with the Secretaries of Agriculture and Energy, to provide the inventory to Congress. The Secretary of the Interior designated the BLM to lead the effort. That inventory, now referred to as EPCA Phase I, was released in January 2003. Phase II was released in November 2006. The report, titled Inventory of Onshore Federal Oil and Natural Gas Resources and Restrictions to Their Development (EPCA III), supersedes Phase II of the inventory. The EPCA III report includes:

  • All onshore Federal lands within the United States 
  • The areas covered in detail by the Phase II inventory of 2006 have been updated where needed (Northern Alaska, the Paradox, San Juan, Uinta-Piceance, Powder River, Denver, Black Warrior and Appalachian Basins, Southwestern Wyoming [previously referred to as the Greater Green River Basin], the Montana and Wyoming Thrust Belts and the Florida Peninsula) 
  • Six additional areas are analyzed in detail (Central and Southern Alaska, Eastern Oregon-Washington, and the Ventura, Williston, and Eastern Great Basins) 
  • The accessibility of the remaining onshore Federal lands of the United States have been extrapolated from the results of the detailed study areas. The EPCA Phase III Inventory therefore represents the first truly national assessment of the restrictions and impediments to oil and gas exploration and development.

View the full EPCA Phase III report.

View the Q&A from EPCA Phase III.

EPCA Phase III GIS Data

Earlier version have been superseded by the above Phase III release. However, for reference purposes, here are links to earlier EPCA Reports:

EPCA Phase II--November 2006
EPCA Phase I--January 2003

The BLM works to ensure that development of mineral resources is conducted in an environmentally responsible manner.

Regional Information

Read regional information about the BLM's oil and gas activities.