BLM discontinues master leasing plans as part of a broader review

The US Bureau of Land Management discontinued master leasing plans (MLP) on Jan. 31 after determining that they created duplicative National Environmental Policy Act review layers. It launched the program in May 2010 to address a federal onshore oil, gas, and minerals leasing system in which nearly half of all proposed parcels received community protests, and a substantial number resulted in litigation.

The US Bureau of Land Management discontinued master leasing plans (MLP) on Jan. 31 after determining that they created duplicative National Environmental Policy Act review layers. It launched the program in May 2010 to address a federal onshore oil, gas, and minerals leasing system in which nearly half of all proposed parcels received community protests, and a substantial number resulted in litigation.

BLM reached its decision after conducting a review in response to Executive Order 13783 and Secretarial Order 3354, it said in an instruction memorandum (IM). It rescinded procedures for developing the MLPs and said it will not initiate any new MLPs or complete ongoing MLPs under consideration as land use plan amendments.

The IM aims to simplify and streamline the agency’s leasing process “to alleviate unnecessary impediments and burdens, to expedite the offering of lands for lease, and to ensure quarterly oil and gas lease sales are consistently held in accordance with the Mineral Leasing Act, Executive Order 13783, and Secretarial Order 3354,” BLM said.

It also includes sections dealing with land use planning, lease parcel reviews, and lease sales and issuances. “This policy is intended to result in additional revenue from increased lease sales and reduced costs for NEPA review, planning, responses to protests, and associated oil and gas program costs,” BLM indicated.

“It is anticipated that staff resources may be shifted at times from other program areas to meet this high priority program area need,” it added.

Kathleen Sgamma, president of the Western Energy Alliance in Denver, welcomed BLM’s move. “The MLPs were put in place by the stroke of a pen, and now have been undone by a stroke of a pen. MLPs were another environmental analysis on top of three, four, and sometimes five layers of NEPA land use planning for our members. This administration was right to overturn the policy,” she told OGJ.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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