WASHINGTON, D.C. – As part of Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar's ongoing agenda to change how the Department of the Interior does business, the Bureau of Land Management today finalized several reforms to its oil and gas program that will improve environmental protection of important natural resources on U.S. public lands while aiding in the orderly leasing and balanced development of the nation's energy supply.
“We must continue to move forward quickly and responsibly on our agenda to reform the management of our nation's onshore and offshore energy resources and our oversight of the companies that develop them,” said Secretary Salazar. “The BLM reforms we are finalizing today establish a more orderly, open, and environmentally sound process for developing oil and gas resources on public lands. The BP oil spill is a stark reminder of how we must continue to push ahead with the reforms we have been working on and which we know are needed.”
“These reforms take a fresh look – from inside the Federal government and from outside – at how we can better manage Americans' energy resources,” said BLM Director Bob Abbey. “They will improve protections for land, water, and wildlife, and reduce potential conflicts that can lead to costly and time-consuming protests and litigation of leases. The reforms will also move control of the leasing process from Washington, DC, to the field.”
In January, Secretary Salazar outlined the reforms that BLM is finalizing today. Many of the reforms follow the recommendations of an interdisciplinary review team that studied a controversial 2008 oil and gas lease sale in Utah.
Abbey said the increased opportunity for public participation and a more thorough environmental review process and documentation can help reduce the number of protests filed, as well as enhance the BLM's ability to resolve protests prior to lease sales.
“The consequence of not following this front-loaded process in the past has been significant protests and appeals, coupled with judicial restraints on development, job loss, and diminished access to energy resources,” said Abbey. “Instead of the BLM investing vast amounts of staff time and attention to defending lawsuits and revisiting the leasing process after receiving direction from the courts, our goal is to undertake important reviews in advance.”
The BLM manages 253 million acres – more land than any other Federal agency. This land, known as the National System of Public Lands, is primarily located in 12 Western states, including Alaska. The BLM, with a budget of about $1 billion, also administers 700 million acres of sub-surface mineral estate throughout the nation. The BLM's multiple-use mission is to sustain the health and productivity of the public lands for the use and enjoyment of present and future generations. The BLM accomplishes this by managing such activities as outdoor recreation, livestock grazing, mineral development, and energy production, and by conserving natural, historical, cultural, and other resources on public lands.