IPAA asks Salazar to reconsider new onshore leasing regulations

The Independent Petroleum Association of America urged US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to reconsider implementing what the trade association believes are new duplicative and unnecessary onshore leasing regulations.

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Jan. 14 -- The Independent Petroleum Association of America urged US Interior Secretary Ken Salazar to reconsider implementing what the trade association believes are new duplicative and unnecessary onshore leasing regulations.

“These new regulations are not consistent with an American energy policy that provides more jobs and revenues to our nation’s economy and strengthens our national security,” IPAA Pres. Barry Russell said in a Jan. 13 letter to Salazar. “Not only are these new regulations duplicative and unnecessary, they will further restrict access to vital oil and natural gas resources our nation needs.”

Salazar and US Bureau of Land Management Director Robert V. Abbey announced on Jan. 6 that BLM will consider site-specific conditions for individual onshore lease sales during comprehensive interdisciplinary reviews. The agency also will develop master leasing and development plans for areas where intensive new oil and gas production is expected and adopt new guidelines for using categorical exclusions, they said.

Russell said the current federal onshore leasing program already provides a thorough examination of any proposed activity’s potential environmental impacts on a specific area. “The process currently includes an examination of the proposed action as part of an overall land use plan, a thorough review and project specific analysis under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), consultation with the states, and the requisite permits to drill that include compliance with wildlife, air, water, and land quality regulations,” he told Salazar.

Oil and gas producers operating on federal lands also must comply with the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), Russell added. “No industry faces more scrutiny under the ESA than oil and gas operators on federal lands and any ‘enhancement’ of that process will only cause further delay, litigation challenges, and ultimately less resources being produced on federal lands,” he said.

Russell said while independent producers recognize that operating on federal lands requires a partnership with federal land management agencies, they do not think it’s necessary to expand the existing process. Russell said producers are particularly concerned with the master leasing and development process which Salazar mentioned because it would add “significant, new, and redundant” programs to the process without any requisite improvement.

Finally, IPAA and its members are concerned about changes that Salazar proposed in the use of categorical exclusions, which the 2005 Energy Policy Act authorized as a time and money-saving alternative to a full review under the National Environmental Policy Act where they were deemed appropriate, Russell said. “Efforts to revise or allow [their] use under ‘extraordinary circumstances’ will significantly limit the ability of independent producers to utilize these important tools,” he told Salazar.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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