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Pinedale Online > News > August 2005 > BLM struggling to meet environmental protection

GAO BLM Report. Photo by GAO graphic.
GAO BLM Report
The GAO report covers comments from BLM staff in several states, including Wyoming.
BLM struggling to meet environmental protection
GAO Report findings
August 30, 2005

In June, the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report analyzing the Bureau of Land Managementís (BLM) ability to process the flood of Oil and Gas permits without compromising the use of public lands for other purposes. The report was to the Ranking Minority Member, Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs and U.S. Senate. The report concluded that increased permitting activity has lessened the BLMís ability to meet its environmental protection responsibilities.

According to the report, rising U.S. energy consumption and concerns about energy dependency on foreign energy sources have prompted the administration to aggressively pursue domestic oil and gas production. The BLM is the agency charged with issuing leases for oil and gas resources on roughly 700 million acres of federal land.

The report states that in 2004, the U.S. government collected roughly $1.6 BILLION in royalty payments on oil and gas valued at approximately $14.5 billion.

The GAO visited eight field offices and interviewed personnel responsible for the day-to-day administration of the BLMís oil and gas program. Offices visited were in Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Miles City, Montana; Carlsbad and Farmington, New Mexico; Vernal, Utah; and Buffalo, Rawlins, and Pinedale, Wyoming during February 2004 through April, 2005.

BLM staff in those offices identified a number of factors that affected their current ability to adequately manage their oil and gas program. Staff limitations, budget constraints, workload pressure, legal appeals and litigation were among the challenges field office staff identified as complicating factors.

The report states that in five out of eight BLM field offices the GAO visited, "staff had to devote increased time to processing drilling permits, leaving less time to mitigation activities, such as environmental inspections and idle-well reviews."

The 70-page GAO report pointed out that while the BLM has the ability to assess and collect fees to process oil and gas permits, it has not exercised this authority. One of the GAOís recommendations, based on their study, was for the BLM to finalize and implement a fee structure to recover the cost of processing oil and gas permits.

For the complete GAO report, click on this link:
GAO BLM Oil & Gas Development Report (70 pages, 1500K PDF)

Pinedale Online > News > August 2005 > BLM struggling to meet environmental protection

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