A top Coalition priority continues to be reforming our country’s broken and outdated oil and gas leasing system. When these leases neighbor national parks, the results can bring harm to our precious wildlife and their habitat and compromise air quality. Many reports over the years from various government entities, including the Department of the Interior itself, have highlighted the need to reform this program.
If concerns about the negative, environmental impacts of not acting are not enough to motivate decision makers, the financial costs of not taking action are indisputable. On May 11, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published its 2022 Annual Report, Additional Opportunities to Reduce Fragmentation, Overlap, and Duplication, and Achieve Billions of Dollars in Financial Benefit (GAO-22-105301).. Summarized in the report are three sets of recommendations GAO has made to the Department of the Interior to improve the oil and gas leasing program.
New to this annual report are inefficiencies in the Bureau of Land Management’s (BLM) data management systems. GAO initially identified these inefficiencies in their May 2021 report Oil and Gas: Interior Should Strengthen Management of Key Data Systems Used to Oversee Development on Federal Lands (GAO-21-209). GAO recognizes that DOI has taken steps to update and modernize their three data systems; however, the work will not “facilitate comprehensive, automated data sharing.”
They also note that the leadership position created in 2019 within the Office of the Chief Information Officer charged with aligning data management systems with best practices has yet to develop a final plan to address data sharing among its three systems as they are updated. Improvements in these systems would significantly reduce staff time and improve DOI’s oversight of oil and gas development.
Additional recommendations for DOI include revising BLM application fees for leasing federal lands for oil and gas development to fully reflect the cost of the application process. GAO estimates that if fees were adjusted to incorporate ten percent of current unaccounted costs, it would generate millions in revenue over the next decade. GAO first made these recommendations in its November 2021 report, Oil and Gas Leasing: BLM Should Update Its Guidance and Review Its Fees (GAO-22-103968).
Finally, initially identified in 2011, GAO continues to recommend Congress require DOI to better develop and manage existing leases