BLM focus of ‘federal permit streamlining pilot project’
Buffalo & Rawlins BLM pilot offices will get 28 new positions
November 30, 2005
Editor’s Note: The following article was written by Bob Bennett, Wyoming State Director, Bureau of Land Management, on November 21, 2005, and posted on the BLM Wyoming website. We've reprinted the article in its entirety.
Energy production, price and availability are not things we normally think of as we go about our busy lives. But these issues have pushed their way to the forefront of the news in the last few months and I’m glad to see the attention devoted to these topics.
Rapid run-ups in the price we paid for gas after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita reminded us that we can’t take energy for granted. Each spike showed how dependent our nation is on having steady, reliable supplies of energy. We were also forced to recognize that our nation faces an ever-widening gap between production and consumption of energy – a gap that if not closed, could pose long-term risks to our economy and national security.
Affordable energy is essential to expanding our economy, meeting the needs of our growing population, and enhancing our quality of life. How we meet our energy needs is critical – in terms of ensuring future supplies of oil and gas, increased conservation, use of alternative energy sources and better energy efficiency. And all of this must be done in a way that protects the environment we cherish.
Can it be done? What’s being done right now?
Congress addressed these issues in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, which promotes dependable and environmentally sound energy production, while reducing our nation’s dependence on foreign oil. The Act also encourages energy conservation and efficiency, technological innovation, and higher use of alternative forms of energy, such as wind, geothermal, solar and biomass.
So, what does all this mean for the BLM and the people of Wyoming? Notably, the Act established a ‘federal permit streamlining pilot project,’ which designated the Buffalo and Rawlins field offices as part of seven BLM pilot offices in the West to process oil and gas permits in a more timely and efficient manner.
The pilot offices are designed to be models for interagency cooperation by finding efficiencies in the approval process, eliminating duplication between federal and state agencies, and ultimately, improving environmental protection and customer service. The BLM will continue to protect public lands through environmental reviews and analyses of energy projects. The act does not change the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), or other laws, including the Endangered Species Act and the National Historic Preservation Act.
Nationally, seven pilot offices were identified with a need for 130 positions to do this work. Two pilot offices with 28 new positions will be located in Wyoming – in Buffalo and Rawlins. Permitting under the Federal Permit Pilot Project will promote responsible stewardship, and not simply shorten the amount of time it takes to process Applications for Permit to Drill (APDs).
The hiring process has already begun, with our first new staff to be on board by early 2006. Partner agencies, such as the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the U.S. Forest Service, will provide staff with expertise in evaluating and mitigating the impacts of energy projects, in a manner to ensure coordinated processing of Federal APDs.
The Act also authorizes us to invite State agencies to assign staff to our office. These may include staff from the State Historic Preservation Office, Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the Department of Environmental Quality.
The Pilot Project will be funded with the federal share (50 percent) of all mineral lease rental payments received since the Act was passed. The funds will be available through Fiscal Year 2015 to support the processing of oil and gas permits by the pilot offices.
The BLM has a significant role to play in meeting America’s energy challenges because Federal lands account for about 30 percent of America’s energy production. Federal lands in the West contain more than 140 trillion cubic feet of natural gas – enough to heat more than 55 million homes for nearly 30 years. They also contain about two-thirds of all undiscovered U.S. oil resources and 74 percent of undiscovered natural gas resources.
As the manager of more public land than any other Federal agency, the BLM plays a key role in implementing the Energy Policy Act. With responsibility for 261 million surface acres and 700 million subsurface acres of mineral estate, the BLM provides for multiple uses of public land, including energy development, while ensuring that activities on public lands are conducted in a manner that minimizes environmental impacts.
Energy issues are not black-and-white, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach that will meet our needs. By working together we can meet our challenges – and it starts right here, at home.
Bureau of Land Management – Wyoming