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September 22, 2023
U.S. Department of the Interior, Director (630)
Bureau of Land Management
1849 C St. NW, Room 5646
Washington, DC 20240
Re: Comments on the Bureau of Land Management’s Proposed Rule on Fluid Mineral Leases and Leasing Process
Dear Director Stone-Manning,
Thank you for the opportunity to comment on the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM’s) proposed rule on fluid mineral leases and leasing process. As published in the Federal Register (2023-14287), the BLM is proposing to revise its oil and gas leasing regulations, including codifying provisions of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA)1Pub. L. No. 117-169, 136 Stat. 1818 (2022). pertaining to royalty rates, rentals, and minimum bids, and updating the bonding requirements for leasing, development, and production, along with addressing provisions related to idled wells pursuant to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA).2Pub. L. No. 117-58, 135 Stat. 429 (2021). We strongly support this long-overdue rulemaking and your efforts to secure critical reforms to the federal onshore oil and gas program.
For decades, the onshore oil and gas program has maintained an entrenched, institutional preference for development above all other uses of public lands, fostering both an unsustainable and unpredictable revenue stream for American taxpayers and harm to public lands and resources. As a result, the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the Department of the Interior’s Office of Inspector General (OIG), and numerous other parties have repeatedly urged the Department of the Interior (DOI) to make fundamental changes to the onshore program. Indeed, new regulations are necessary to address issues that have long plagued the program and over which the Interior Secretary has existing authority to take action. Equally important is codifying the recent changes in law so implementation will be durable and sustainable throughout ongoing and future leasing activities.
At the outset, we encourage the BLM to proceed as expeditiously as possible with the rulemaking process. The final rule is needed to reflect the new requirements of the IRA pertaining to onshore oil and gas leasing and to ensure public awareness of the amended statutory provisions, such as the law’s fiscal changes and the elimination of noncompetitive leasing. Particularly as new onshore oil and gas lease sales continue to be held in conformance with the provision in the IRA that tethers the issuance of wind and solar rights of way to offering some acreage for oil and gas leasing, it is essential that revision to the BLM’s oil and gas regulations be finalized promptly following the conclusion of the public comment period.
We emphasize that this rulemaking improves program administration, providing clarity and efficiency to the oil and gas leasing process. Implementation of the various provisions of the rule will, appropriately, be subject to future process under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).342 U.S.C. §§ 4321–4370m-12
Turning to our substantive comments, we support many of the actions that the BLM has included in its proposed rule. To ensure the success of the current rulemaking process, to improve program administration, and to bring the BLM’s stewardship of our public lands and minerals even closer in line with the public’s interest in—and the agency’s mandate for—safeguarding and preserving public lands, waters, and fish and wildlife, we also respectfully request that the BLM take into account our recommendations for both refining and improving several of the agency’s proposed regulatory changes.
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- 1Pub. L. No. 117-169, 136 Stat. 1818 (2022).
- 2Pub. L. No. 117-58, 135 Stat. 429 (2021).
- 342 U.S.C. §§ 4321–4370m-12