DOI issues report on energy burdens
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November 01, 2017
DOI issues report on energy burdens

The Department of Interior (DOI) and its secretary, Ryan Zinke, have issued a report identifying actions by the department that potentially block or discourage the development and use of energy resources on federal land and water. The report also describes actions the DOI is taking to remove these obstacles.

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The DOI has nine bureaus with energy programs and responsibilities. Prominent among these are the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which administers onshore energy and subsurface minerals on certain public lands; the Office of Surface Mining Reclamation and Enforcement, which works with states and tribes to oversee coal mining operations; the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees offshore oil, gas, and wind development; and the Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, the lead federal agency charged with improving safety and ensuring environmental protection related to the offshore energy industry, primarily oil and natural gas, on the U.S. Outer Continental Shelf (OCS).

According to Zinke, these and other DOI bureaus have been implementing “Obama-era job-killing regulations,” which Zinke says must be revised or repealed.

Resource development on federal land produces almost one-fifth of the nation’s energy and generates, on average, $10 billion per year in revenue.

Comprehensive review

The report responds to President Donald Trump’s March 28, 2017, Executive Order, Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth, which directed the heads of Executive Branch agencies to “review all existing regulations, orders, guidance documents, policies, and any other similar agency actions … that potentially burden the development or use of domestically produced energy resources, with particular attention to oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear energy resources.”

“The Secretary of the Interior has aggressively pursued a comprehensive review of Interior’s energy activities, and this final report details the results of this review,” states the report.

5-year program, fracking, NEPA

The “burdens” the DOI is engaged in mitigating or removing include the following:

  • 5-Year Program written under the Obama administration, which put 94 percent of the OCS off limits to leasing. The DOI has started the process of developing a new 5-Year Program to “responsibly” develop the OCS. 
  • The 2015 rule governing hydraulic fracturing on federal and Indian lands. The cost of compliance with this rule is not justified, says the report, sinceall 32 states with federal oil and gas leases and some tribes currently have laws or regulations that address hydraulic fracturing operations. The BLM has begun rulemaking to rescind the rule.
  • The Waste Prevention, Production Subject to Royalties, and Resource Conservation (the venting and flaring) Rule, which, the report asserts, imposes a substantial burden on industry, especially for marginal well production in energy-rich states like New Mexico; the requirements are set to become effective January 17, 2018. On October 5, 2017, the BLM proposed to temporarily suspend certain requirements of the rule. The BLM is also actively reviewing the underlying regulation for potential revision.
  • NEPA reviews. The report states that the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process has added extra time and analysis to project completion, adding uncertainty for industry and higher costs for taxpayers. “This is particularly true for DOI actions that impact energy and infrastructure projects, including resource management planning, permitting, and issuance of rights-of-way for pipeline projects and electricity transmission,” says the DOI. The department has identified rules and regulations to revise or rescind, including master leasing plans, NEPA compliance for oil and gas lease reinstatement petitions, and the sage-grouse resource management plans. In August 2017, DOI’s deputy secretary issued a memo setting a deadline of 1 year and limiting environmental impact statements to 150 pages or 300 pages for unusually complex projects.
  • Endangered Species Act (ESA). The ESA has far-reaching negative impacts on energy production and transmission as well as on critical infrastructure projects, says the report. The DOI is working with the Western Governors Association and other local partners to develop recommendations to improve the application of the ESA; these include a review of ESA regulations and policy documents found to be outdated, unnecessary, ineffective, and inconsistently aligned with the administration’s policies.

The DOI’s report is here.

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