Interior Department Will Speed Up Approving Oil and Natural Gas

While we experienced an oil and natural gas boom—the Shale Boom—it was happening on private and state-owned lands. On federal lands, the production of both was declining.

Chart: U.S. oil production on federal and non-federal lands

Chart: U.S. natural gas production on federal and non-federal lands

The charts above are a few years old, but they give you an idea of what was happening during the Obama years. Simply put, the Obama administration made a concerted effort to turn off the energy spigot on federal lands.

Interior Department Secretary Ryan Zinke took an important step in reversing this ill-conceived policy:

U.S. Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke on Thursday signed an order to hold more lease sales and to speed up approving permits to explore for oil and gas on federal land, a process he said got bogged down under former President Barack Obama.

The order is the latest move by the administration of President Donald Trump to make it easier to drill and mine on federal land, which Zinke said is a source of income for the government.

The Interior Department’s Bureau of Land Management is supposed to take 30 days to review applications for permits to drill but Zinke said the average time for processing in 2016 was 257 days.

“I’m directing the BLM to conduct quarterly lease sales and address these permitting issues,” Zinke said in a statement. “We are also looking at opportunities to bring support to our front line offices who are facing the brunt of this workload.”

There were 2,802 permit applications pending as of Jan. 31, with three quarters of them filed in five field offices in Wyoming, Utah, North Dakota and New Mexico.

In contrast to the bogged-down federal permitting process, a 2014 Interior Department Inspector General’s report found that it took state regulators only 80 days to approve permits.

The U.S. Chamber’s Global Energy Institute is pleased with this “much needed attitude adjustment.

“The law has been pretty clear for a century–the Secretary of Interior is responsible for conducting quarterly lease sales on available BLM land and concluding the review process on an application for a permit to drill within 30 days.  The previous administration decided to ignore these legal requirements to the detriment of U.S. energy security and western jobs,” explained Christopher Guith, senior vice president of policy. “Secretary Zinke’s re-commitment to following the law is a tremendous step towards harnessing America’s status as a growing energy super-power.”

Unlike its predecessor, the Trump administration embraces America’s energy

Sean Hackbarth

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