President Obama’s Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar, was in North Dakota this week to talk about oil and gas permitting. In fact, along side ND Senators Kent Conrad and John Hoeven as well as Rep. Rick Berg, Salazar announced that the Obama administration would be streamlining the permitting process for oil and gas developers looking to tap resources on federal lands.
“As part of President Obama’s all-of-the-above energy strategy, Interior is committed to expanding safe and responsible oil and gas development on public lands and Indian trust lands,” Salazar said, adding that the plan will cut down the time it takes the department to review drilling permit applications “significantly.”
Interior’s Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said it will implement an “automated tracking system” that will make it easier for the agency to communicate with applicants for onshore drilling permits. BLM said the new system will reduce the amount of time it takes to review the applications by two-thirds. The system is slated to be in place by May 2013, according to BLM.
That’s all well and good, assuming this is a sincere effort to change policy, but as Sean Hackbarth points out, the Obama administration has been roadblocking this initiative since they took office:
According to minority staff of the Senate Energy Committee, Section 365 of the Energy Policy Act (EPAct) of 2005 created a pilot program to streamline the oil and gas drilling permit process (see text below). The law names locations of the BLM field offices that house the pilot program, one being in Carlsbad, New Mexico. We’ll get to that in a moment.
The administration hasn’t been a fan of the program. In budget requests for fiscal years 2013, 2012, 2011, and 2010, it asked Congress to repeal the program
Plus, as I’ve pointed out before, while overall domestic oil and gas production is up, it’s actually down on lands managed by the federal government, specifically the Obama administration.
Again, assuming this shift in policy announced by Salazar is sincere, it’s certainly a departure from the hostility the Obama administration has born toward oil and gas development on federal lands to date.