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BLM Proposes New Permitting Charges for Activities on Public Lands

The Bureau of Land Management (BLM) has published proposed new fees for oil and gas drilling and other permits for use of public lands in the July 19 Federal Register.

The new fees for oil and gas activities are being added to an earlier proposal to increase or set new fees for other minerals activities related to solid minerals and aimed at recovering reasonable costs for processing documents. The Bureau estimates that once the phased-in fees are fully implemented, the agency will recover about $23.5 million more annually in mineral processing receipts than it receives under existing regulations.

The new regulatory proposal would cover oil and gas applications for permits to drill (APDs), geothermal permits to drill (GDP), and geophysical exploration permits. The new fees pursuant to these changes would be phased in over a period of up to five years. The first-year fees would be $1,600 for APDs and GPDs and $500 for geophysical exploration permits. Second-year and following year rates would increase by $500 until the full fee is met.

In the case of APDs, the full fee would be $4,000; for GPDs, the full fee would be $3,500; and for geophysical exploration permits, the fee would rise to $2,500. Currently, there are no fees for geophysical permits.

"Our proposal is aimed at setting fair fees so our agency can recover reasonable costs resulting from the processing of minerals-related permit applications," said Thomas Lonnie, BLM Assistant Director for Minerals, Realty and Resource Protection.

The BLM had published a cost-recovery proposal in December 2000 that would have covered processing costs related only to solid minerals, such as gold, copper, coal, phosphate, sodium, and sand and gravel. The new proposal, which supersedes the earlier one, adds fluid minerals such as oil and gas to the types of documents that would be affected by the cost-recovery provisions.

A 30-day period for public comment will close Aug. 18, 2005. Comments will be reviewed before BLM issues a final rule. Comments on the proposal should be submitted in writing to: Director (630), Bureau of Land Management, Eastern States Office, 7450 Boston Boulevard, Springfield, Virginia 22153, Attention: RIN 1004-AD42. Or for hand delivery of comments, the address is: Bureau of Land Management, 1620 L Street, NW, Suite 401, Washington, DC 20036. To comment electronically, e-mail comments directly to the BLM's Washington Office comment box (Comments_washington@blm.gov).

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