Skip to comments.Environmental Studies Waived in Oil Push
Posted on 10/18/2005 8:02:25 PM PDT by NormsRevenge
WASHINGTON - In an aggressive push by the Bush administration to open more public land to oil and gas production, the Interior Department has quit conducting environmental reviews and seeking comments from local residents every time drilling companies propose new wells.
Field officials have been told to begin looking at issuing permits based on past studies of an entire project, even though some of those assessments may be outdated. The instructions are in a directive from the department's Bureau of Land Management expected to cover hundreds of anticipated new drilling applications.
President Bush and Congress authorized the streamlining as part of a 1,724-page energy bill signed into law in August. BLM officials, saying the need for energy supplies is immediate, showed unusual speed implementing it. Kathleen Clarke, the agency's director, sent out the new guidance Sept. 30.
"Yes, it is a priority of the White House," BLM Deputy Director Jim Hughes said in an interview. "We are moving expeditiously to implement the law. We think all these items will increase the supply this winter. However, everyone is saying it won't be enough to wipe out the impact of the hurricanes and all that."
The energy bill created new "categorical exclusions" under the 1970 National Environmental Policy Act for allowing new oil, gas and geothermal wells without first conducting environmental studies or soliciting public comment on them. The exclusions from normal permit requirements cover instances when less than 150 acres and no more than five acres in any one spot are disturbed and where nearby drilling has occurred in the past five years.
"We don't think there will be any environmental degradation," Hughes said. "It's basically going into areas where you've already got stuff happening, where you've got existing NEPA work that had been completed. We think in many cases this is just duplicative work."
Energy producers would still be required to comply with other environmental laws, such as those intended to protect endangered species, air and water quality and cultural artifacts.
So far, no new permits have been issued under the new guidance. But Interior officials expect it to spur more drilling on open ranges and the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. Those include Powder River Basin of Wyoming, the Uintah Basin of Utah and the San Juan Basin of New Mexico and Colorado, all areas where drilling has already boomed in recent years.
Other areas ripe for the expedited permits are near parkland, such as Colorado's Canyons of the Ancients National Monument, though not within national parks or wilderness areas.
Last year, the bureau approved 6,052 drilling permits from about 7,000 applications submitted a 60 percent jump in new permits over those issued in 2003. This year, BLM expects it will approve 7,000 of the 8,000 new applications, Hughes said.
Environmentalists say they will continue to insist that environmental reviews are up-to-date.
"They have to have a fairly recent analysis of the impacts before they can apply these categorical exclusions," said Dave Alberswerth, public lands director for The Wilderness Society. "If they're planning to improperly apply these exemptions ... in places where there are old land use plans that are out of date, then they are asking for legal trouble."
The government had 55,385 square miles of public lands leased out for oil and natural gas production last year, but only a third of it 18,236 square miles was involved in actual energy production. Nearly all the leases BLM considered nonproducing have never had an exploratory well drilled, or even a single application for a permit to drill filed with BLM.
"If you look at the actual facts on the ground, they have thousands of more drilling permits in their pockets than they can even drill on," Alberswerth said. "So why is Congress or the administration always looking for ways to exempt the wealthiest companies in the world from their environmental responsibilities?"
Lee Fuller, a spokesman for the Independent Petroleum Association of America, said environmental groups have misused the law to delay drilling permits. But Fuller also said the administration's hoped-for boost in energy production might not occur until later.
"It's hard to judge anything in terms of what might happen this winter," he said. "I don't think anybody has a clear sense of things. But whether it happens this winter, or it's available next spring or summer when there's also a demand for it, you have to be ready."
On the Net:
BLM guidance: http://www.blm.gov/nhp/efoia/wo/fy05/im2005-247.htm
Independent Petroleum Association of America: http://www.ipaa.org/
The Wilderness Society: http://www.wilderness.org/
Roughnecks vs Enviroweenies
Gotta love those Roughnecks, married one 25 years ago!
Hmmm... still "de-oil-icious"
Long live the soul of Ronaldo Maxummius!
Put on some more weight and keep it turning to the right.
I don't know about you or the rest of the people here, but crude is sure the sweetest smell around!
OK, we must keep working toward ''shjtcanned''. Long struggle, but worth it...and, let's build some bloody nuke plants, please, also!
Put them in blue states....(see the lefties squirm)..see the unions push for jobs.
Same as ANWAR...most of the unions support that.
Heck...I might just dust off my boots and hard had and head for the oil patch
Good! All this investigation before the fact is just an eco-commie stalling tactic.
Have strict environmental laws, and throw the book at violators - but quit holding up progress just to please a bunch of leftists!
I just can't understand why places like Cleveland with 11% unemployment are not falling all over themselves to get a refinery and all the jobs that go with building and running one.
'Who will help me build an energy plant, so we can heat our homes and have light after sunset?' asked the Little Red Hen, etc.
You know the rest, of course (sigh).
Because 90+ percent of their unemployed want to lay on their dead a$$es and collect welfare, rather than get a job - especially one with those E-VIL oil companies.
They don't know what they're unleashing. I've been to horrible places in Western NY and NW Pennsylvania where the deadly black goo actually flows up out of the ground of it's own accord, poisoning the air and water and devouring anything organic in it's path.
The madness was stopped once, and the hell holes were plugged with concrete. But now that everyone has forgotten the terror of years past, the evil Republicans will redrill the holes, and the creeping ooze will devour us all in our beds while we sleep!
Oh, wait- "The Blob" wasn't about oil- it was about Communism.
There is no welfare for men.
Certainly, you are correct.... they just lay up with women that DO collect welfare.
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