Jul 02, 2014 - 6:00pm

Long Delays in Approving Oil and Natural Gas Permits on Federal Lands, Report Finds


Senior Editor, Digital Content

We’re witnessing a strange dichotomy during America’s energy boom. While oil and natural gas production has been increasing on private and state lands, it’s been falling on federal lands, as these two charts from the Institute for 21st Century Energy show. 

Between 2009 and 2013, oil production on private and state lands has increased by 61% while decreasing by 6% on federal lands. 

In that same time, natural gas production on private and state lands has increased by 33% but decreased by 28% on federal lands.

This Congressional Research Service report gets into the details.

Much of the blame stems from permitting delays by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).  A Department of Interior Inspector General report finds that while state regulators take only 80 days to approve permits, their federal counterparts at BLM take about 7.5 months. What's more BLM’s permitting process also involves a lot of uncertainty:

We found that neither BLM nor the operator can predict when the permit will be approved. Target dates for completion of individual [applications for permits to drill] are rarely set and enforced, and consequently, the review may continue indefinitely.

This “adversely affects developing the Nation’s domestic energy resources," the report states.

Federal authorities can reverse this trend by improving the permitting process for federal lands and opening more offshore areas to energy exploration.

Read the Institute for 21st Century Energy’s Energy Works for US for more policy recommendations to unleash America’s energy abundance. 

Follow Sean Hackbarth on Twitter at @seanhackbarth and the U.S. Chamber at @uschamber.

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About the Author

About the Author

Sean Hackbarth
Senior Editor, Digital Content

Sean writes about public policies affecting businesses including energy, health care, and regulations. When not battling those making it harder for free enterprise to succeed, he raves about all things Wisconsin (his home state) and religiously follows the Green Bay Packers.