The Bush administration on August 7 announced new policies to streamline the oil and natural gas permitting process on federal lands overseen by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The BLM has been instructed not to unduly restrict access to oil and natural gas on federal lands. The new policies explicitly direct the BLM to act most expeditiously on permit applications where unnecessary delays could result in the suspension or abandonment of a proposed energy recovery project.
The Bush administration singled out seven geographic areas as a primary focus for the new instructions:
- Colorado’s Piceance Basin
- Montana’s Thrust Belt
- New Mexico’s San Juan Basin
- Utah’s Ferron Coal Trend Basin
- Utah’s Uinta Basin
- Wyoming’s Green River Basin
- Wyoming’s Powder River Basin.
According to Reuters, the mean estimate for energy reserves in the focus areas is 5.5 billion barrels of oil and 184 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Significantly, the natural gas reserves represent more than 800 percent of the nation’s annual natural gas consumption.
BLM director Kathleen Clarke assured the media an efficient permitting process can and should work hand-in-hand with environmental responsibility. “Our overall objective is to ensure the timely development of these critical energy resources in an environmentally sound manner,” said Clarke.
Even so, “We’re anticipating litigation,” Interior Secretary Gale Norton told CNBC. “It’s just something that we live with at the Department of the Interior.”
James M. Taylor is managing editor of Environment & Climate News. His email address is [email protected].