Rep. Bishop, Sen. Udall Urge Renewal of Successful BLM Energy Permitting Field Offices
WASHINGTON – This week, U.S. Sen. Tom Udall (D-N.M.) and U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop (R-Utah) wrote to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell seeking to reauthorize a successful pilot program that has helped the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) improve efficiency and balance complex demands, including oil and gas permitting and environmental conservation.
The Energy Policy Act of 2005 created the pilot program to improve the federal mineral development permit process and help ensure local BLM offices had needed resources. Under the existing program, the Secretary of the Interior may allocate a portion of rental fees paid by producers to specific BLM offices in New Mexico, Utah, Wyoming, Montana and Colorado, which can be reinvested to hire additional staff or resources that would improve efficiency and support work on the BLM's diverse responsibilities, such as processing mineral leasing permits and wildlife and range conservation.
In their letter, Udall and Bishop wrote that the program, which expires in 2015, has proved to be extremely successful, helping to streamline permitting and enabling the BLM to better manage its additional responsibilities. As part of the process for reauthorizing the program, Udall and Bishop asked Jewell to help them craft "legislative ideas for how to improve and continue the functionality and applicability of the program."
"In the past 10 years, the United States has seen a resurgence of production in the oil and natural gas industry. While this jumpstart has mostly happened on state and private lands, multiple-use public lands have a huge role to play with vast, untapped resources," Udall and Bishop wrote. "In order to see this success replicated on public lands, programs that create a more efficient working environment for producers and permitting agencies are vital."
"The pilot project and the pilot offices have proven to be successful. In states like Utah, multiple use of our federal lands and resources is a critical component of our ability to address, among many other things, the state's growing education needs. Now, through the pilot offices and the additional resources they provide, BLM staff are able to more effectively and efficiently evaluate energy opportunities in worthwhile areas throughout the West. It is my hope that Secretary Jewell and the Bureau of Land Management will recognize the merits of this project and agree to an extension," said Congressman Bishop.
"Streamlining the federal permitting process is of critical importance to local communities, energy producers, and our nation's energy security. Uintah County is pleased that Congress, led by Congressman Rob Bishop, is working in a bipartisan manner to renew an important BLM permit-streamlining program," said Uintah County Commissioner Mike McKee. "The Vernal Field Office benefits from this program and long-term growth in the Uintah Basin will be aided by the program's renewal. We look forward to working with Congressman Bishop on renewing and strengthening this program."
"Oil and natural gas production in New Mexico generates critical revenue to support state functions, including education and health," Senator Udall said. "The two New Mexico pilot offices are among the busiest in the country, and thanks to this program, they're more efficient and effective. That ensures we're making smart, strategic decisions about our energy future and providing better service to all New Mexicans. We need to keep them humming by reauthorizing this program and making any changes that would further improve on the success we've already seen."
The text of the letter is available below and HERE.
Dear Madam Secretary:
Thank you for the important work you are doing at the Department of the Interior. As part of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the Secretary of Interior established a Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project under a memorandum of understanding in conjunction with the Secretary of Agriculture and the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency. Through this program, a series of pilot offices were established for a ten-year period for BLM offices in Wyoming, Montana, Colorado, New Mexico, and Utah to improve federal permit coordination. Congress supported this program more recently on a bipartisan basis with enactment of Public Law 113-69 in December 2013.
At the time of implementation, these existing BLM offices processed nearly seventy percent of the applications for permits to drill (APD) that were received by the BLM. Through the pilot project, these participating offices were eligible to receive a portion of the rental fees—paid by producers to the BLM—from leases across the continental United States in order to reinvest the capital in additional staff or resources to increase the efficiency of the office. BLM offices were able to use the additional funding to process drilling permits and support other agency resources related to range, wildlife, and archeological conservation.
In the past ten years, the United States has seen a resurgence of production in the oil and natural gas industry. While this jumpstart has mostly happened on state and private lands, multiple-use public lands have a huge role to play with vast, untapped resources. In order to see this success replicated on public lands, programs that create a more efficient working environment for producers and permitting agencies are vital.
As you know, this pilot program is set to expire in 2015. Having been a successful program, we are requesting a reauthorization of this program. We would like to work with the Department to craft language that would be mutually beneficial. We welcome your legislative ideas for how to improve and continue the functionality and applicability of the program. Please send our office your ideas for continued success of this program by March 4, 2014. We look forward to your reply.
U.S. Senator Tom Udall
U.S. Representative Rob Bishop