BLM Issues New Polices Aimed at Increasing Exploration

As part of its implementation of President Bush's National Energy Policy, the Bureau of Land Management today issued new policies aimed at reducing or eliminating impediments to oil and gas leasing on BLM-managed lands. The policies, which take effect immediately, instruct BLM land-use planners to evaluate the necessity of current constraints on energy development in high-potential oil and gas areas.

BLM Director Kathleen Clarke said the new policies "will further our Agency's efforts to ensure a reliable supply of affordable energy, as called for by the President." As part of this new direction, Clarke has designated seven "focus areas" that contain a high potential for oil and gas development. The BLM's field managers will concentrate on these areas in setting priorities for work related to oil and gas planning, leasing, and permitting.

The new policies provide direction to the BLM's state and field offices on ways to incorporate the findings of a comprehensive oil and gas inventory into the Agency's land-use planning process. The findings come from an inventory carried out pursuant to the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 2000, which required that estimates be made of oil and gas resources beneath Federal lands in five Western basins and that the nature and extent of impediments to developing these resources be identified.

"The EPCA report findings will help our field managers make informed decisions concerning the exploration and development of oil and gas on public lands," said Clarke. "That includes decisions related to the placement of such infrastructure as pipelines, powerlines, and roadways. Our overall objective is to ensure the timely development of these critical energy resources in an environmentally sound manner."

In carrying out the new policies, the BLM's state and field offices will determine by December 31, 2003, the need for changing existing land-use plans to facilitate oil and gas exploration and development based on the EPCA findings. The policies direct the Agency's land-use planners to not unduly restrict access to Federal lands, while continuing to protect resources when they review oil and gas lease stipulations, especially in cases where an unnecessary stipulation could result in the abandonment or delay of a project.

The new policies also require all BLM state offices with a significant oil and gas program to conduct at least one meeting with industry representatives within a year from today to share the EPCA findings and discuss oil- and gas-related policy changes.