Interior secretary calls for quicker oil, gas permits

Ryan Zinke

The Bureau of Land Management is to streamline its handling of drill-permit applications on federal land under an order signed Thursday by Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, who declared, “The war on American energy is officially over.”

Environmental organizations blasted Zinke’s announcement, one saying it amounted to a “pointless giveaway to special interests.”

The order is aimed at reducing the 2,802-application backlog for permits to drill, applications awaiting action as of Jan. 31, and reducing the time needed to process applications from an average of 257 days to the statutory maximum of 30.

“The secretarial order is about a whole lot more than speeding up (applications),” said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association. “It’s about making sure federal land-use agencies’ priorities are in alignment with the president’s energy plan as well as the priorities of other agencies like the department of state.”

Towns and communities in the West “will pay the price for this pointless giveaway through less access to public land,” said Chris
Saeger, executive director of the Western Values Project in Whitefish, Montana.

Zinke’s “clear and strong sentiments were music to the ears of our friends in Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Korea, Japan and Taiwan,” Ludlam said, listing nations interested in buying natural gas from the Piceance Basin of northwest Colorado.

Nada Culver of the Wilderness Society called Zinke’s order “a solution in search of a problem” and said the oil and gas industry “has been sitting on thousands of approved permits on their millions of acres of leased land for years now. The real problem here is this administration’s obsession with selling out more of our public lands to the oil and gas industry at the expense of the American people.”

Streamlining approvals for drill permits and leasing lands for development will generate revenue for local communities and the treasury “to fund the things we all value like national parks, infrastructure and education,” Zinke said.

Five BLM offices account for 74 percent of the backlog in processing permits, topped by Casper, Wyoming, with 526, followed by Vernal, Utah, 506.

The other offices are Dickinson, North Dakota, 488; Carlsbad/Hobbs, New Mexico, 388; and Farmington, New Mexico, 152.


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