Salazar: BLM drilling permits on rise

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar says the Bureau of Land Management expects to process 7,200 oil and gas drilling permits this year, up from about 5,000 the previous year.

Salazar touted the increase during a media teleconference in which BLM director Bob Abbey also participated today.  Salazar’s comments follow President Obama’s statement last week that, contrary to any notion that his administration is shutting down oil production, domestic production last year was the highest since 2003.

During the last fiscal year, natural gas production on federal lands totaled nearly 3 trillion cubic feet, more than twice what it was 1992, according to BLM figures.

Said Salazar, “I think when you look at the amount of production that we have achieved both onshore and offshore, it speaks for itself.”

Salazar said the BLM has leased 41 million acres for oil and gas development, but only 12 million acres are being developed. Obama and Salazar say the government is looking at ways to encourage companies to develop that remaining acreage.

But the Western Energy Alliance industry group said increasing regulatory hurdles hamper companies’ abilities to act on their leases.

The group says that typically, about a third of lease acreage won’t be produced because it turns out there isn’t an economically recoverable amount of oil and gas using today’s technology. But it said a lot of leases are plagued by delays in issuing the leases and drilling permits, failures to give environmental approvals to drilling projects, and legal challenges by environmental groups.

Also, additional regulations including a new policy of reviewing lands for possible wild lands characteristics are reducing the amount of new leases being offered, the group says.



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