Interior, BLM working on major changes to energy development

By North American Shale magazine staff | September 11, 2017

The 2015 U.S. Bureau of Land Management rule on hydraulic fracturing—currently caught up in litigation—may never be implemented. The BLM has announced plans to rescind the rule. The public has until September 25 to comment on the rule.

“Our proposal to rescind the 2015 final rule responds to the president’s call to reduce regulatory burdens, foster job growth and serve the energy needs of America’s families, small businesses and manufacturers,” said Katharine MacGregor, acting assistant secretary for land and minerals management at BLM.

Ryan Zinke, Interior secretary, ordered the review and removal of the BLM’s fracking rule for two main reasons, according to the BLM. All 32 states with federal oil and gas leases currently have regulations to address hydraulic fracturing, and, since the 2015 final rule was published, more oil and gas production companies are using databases, such as FracFocus, to disclose the chemical content of hydraulic fracturing fluids. The disclosure of the materials used in the fracking process had been an argument for the federal government to implement regulations on federal lands.

The review and potential removal of its hydraulic fracturing regulations isn’t the only action the BLM and Department of Interior has taken on oil and gas this summer. Zinke has also signed an order to streamline the process for obtaining federal oil and gas leasing permits.

Although a statute exists requiring the Interior Department and BLM to review and process drilling permit applications within 30 days, the average time was 257 days in 2016. The goal of Zinke’s order is to improve the Federal Onshore Oil and Gas Leasing Program and the Federal Solid Mineral Leasing Program—major sources of income for the federal government.

DOI has also renewed its commitment to holding federal lease sales, a move welcomed by several oil-producing states, including North Dakota.

Congressman Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said, “Considering the Interior has held more federal lease sales in the first six months than the Obama administration did all of last year, it’s clear the Trump administration and Secretary Zinke are making American energy a priority.”