Department of the Interior

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Office of the Secretary
For Immediate Release:
October 25, 2005
John Wright , 202-208-6416

Federal Agencies Agree to Improve Interagency Coordination of Oil and Gas Development on Public Lands
The MOU responds to provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005

WASHINGTON - To expedite Federal oil and gas permit processing while maintaining environmentally responsible management of oil and gas resources on federal lands, the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) today announced the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding. It is designed to enhance interagency coordination and to streamline the processing of permits for oil and gas projects on federal lands. The MOU, completed two weeks in advance of the statutory deadline, creates seven pilot offices where the agencies' staffs will work together as a single unit. The pilot offices are located in five states with the highest potential for onshore domestic energy.

"This Memorandum of Understanding has been signed by all the agencies involved and has the force of law, and as a consequence, I am confident that the pilot offices will be ready for business soon," said Secretary of the Interior Gale Norton. "These offices will be laboratories of efficiency and environmental protection, staffed with experts knowledgeable in both environmental law and energy development."

Established in accordance with provisions of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the MOU details requirements for how agencies will work together and be funded. The Act designated seven Bureau of Land Management Field offices that will provide work space for the experts from the Department of Agriculture, the EPA and the Corps of Engineers to implement improvements in coordinating, processing and monitoring oil and gas use authorizations. The pilot offices will handle a multitude of operational procedures in the processing of Applications for Permits to Drill (APD) and provide one-stop coordination for processing oil and gas development and for conducting inspections and enforcement activities.

The Energy Policy Act of 2005 designated the BLM field offices in Rawlins and Buffalo, Wyo.; Miles City, Mont.; Farmington and Carlsbad, N.M.; Grand Junction and Glenwood Springs, Colo.; and Vernal, Utah as the locations for the pilot project. These offices process 70 percent of all APDs submitted to the BLM.

The seven offices will serve as models to demonstrate how the processing of oil and gas permits can be expedited through improved coordination while maintaining environmental protection. Data will be gathered at each of the seven field offices. After a three-year period, the Secretary of the Interior will report the results of the pilot project to Congress, and then make recommendations to the President on whether the pilot project should be implemented throughout the rest of the United States.

High prices at the gas pump and recent natural disasters have reminded Americans of the importance of having a reliable energy supply. These pilot offices will help ensure the timely coordination of oil and gas authorizations associated with the development of federal onshore oil and gas resources. The pilot offices will serve as an experiment in making the permitting process for energy more efficient. Greater efficiency will make for a better use of taxpayers money and may result in greater access to our nation's energy resources.

A 2001 inventory of mineral resources underlying federal lands in five key Western geographic basins found that these lands contain nearly 140 trillion cubic feet of natural gas - enough to heat more than 55 million homes for nearly 30 years. This same inventory, conducted by the Interior and Energy Departments under the Energy Policy and Conservation Act (EPCA) of 2000, estimated that federal lands contain about 68 percent of all undiscovered U.S. oil resources and 74 percent of undiscovered natural gas resources.