New rules of the road have been unveiled for oil and gas leasing on Bureau of Land Management lands – reforms promoted as a way to improve certainty for the industry, better protect the great outdoors, and reduce lawsuits. B-L-M director Bob Abbey says new policies for increased environmental review and more gathering of public input will reduce the conflict that has dominated leasing decisions over the past ten years.
Interior Department Secretary Ken Salazar announced the reforms, pointing out that most of the land leased in recent years is not in production – so there’s a cushion to slow down the pace of leasing without impacting domestic supply. Some oil and gas industry lobby groups have blamed Salazar’s review of policy for a recent slowdown in production, although several economists say the lower production levels are related to a drop-off in demand because of the poor economy.
Many of the leases issued in recent years will get a second look, according to Salazar. Nada Culver with The Wilderness Society says that’s important, since so many of those leases were issued at the request of the oil and gas industry without any review, not even from the B-L-M’s own experts.
Many feel the reforms will bring peace of mind to the oil and gas industry, which has faced uncertainty because of lawsuits and the push for green energy development.