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BLM plans new guidelines for oil and gas categorical exclusions

The US Bureau of Land Management plans to start a process to establish new guidelines for using categorical exclusions that will include an extensive public comment period, BLM Director Mike Pool told a US House subcommittee on Sept. 9.

Pool’s announcement came during a hearing of the Natural Resources Committee’s Energy and Minerals Subcommittee on US Department of the Interior interpretation of onshore CXs established under Section 390 of the 2005 Energy Policy Act.

Nancy D. Freudenthal, chief judge for US District Court for Wyoming, in an Aug. 12 decision overturned CX instructions BLM and the US Forest Services issued to their field offices in late May and early June under US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar’s direction.

“Her decision vacated those instructions. They will not be re-proposed,” Pool said. He did not indicate when BLM would publish a notice of possible rule-making.

His announcement came as two Democrats on the committee, Ranking Minority Member Edward J. Markey (Mass.) and Rush D. Holt (NJ), the subcommittee’s ranking minority member, asked the US Department of Justice to appeal Freudenthal’s decision.

Other witnesses at the hearing testified that uncertainty about BLM’s approach to CXs has reduced production, discouraged onshore oil and gas development, and stymied government revenue.

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