Sens. John Hoeven (R-ND) and Heidi Heitkamp (D-ND) announced Friday that bipartisan legislation they authored to help streamline oil and gas permitting on federal lands in western North Dakota has passed the U.S. Senate and is headed to the White House for President Obama's signature.
The "Bureau of Land Management (BLM) Streamlining Act" expands the service area of the Miles City, MT, office to include North Dakota, enabling it to process the backlog of permits in the state. Federal permits currently take up to nine months for approval, compared to 10 days on private lands, the two senators said. A companion measure, offered by Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND) has already passed the House.
"This legislation is about helping to cut red tape and making the federal permitting process more timely and efficient," said Hoeven. "Right now, it takes about 180 to 270 days to permit an oil well on BLM land in North Dakota...There are currently about 525 permits awaiting approval. This will help us to alleviate the backlog and other delays that are costing us jobs and economic growth. The BLM Streamlining Act will help us to achieve our goal of true energy independence."
Hoeven first introduced the BLM Streamlining Act in the 112th session of Congress. The legislation was passed by the Senate in 2012, but the House failed to take up the bill and pass it. Hoeven introduced it again in the current session with Heitkamp. Earlier this week, at a hearing of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, Hoeven pressed Neil Kornze, the nominee to be BLM director, for his support in implementing the law and making permitting more efficient.
"For far too long, the permitting process has been delayed because of a lack of federal resources and coordination in western North Dakota. It has led to excessive waits for drilling permits that unnecessarily slow down projects while also putting the brakes on jobs that would come from those projects," said Heitkamp. "Working with colleagues on both sides of the aisle, we were able to get this bill through both the Senate and the House so it can soon be signed into law. We must continue to make common-sense fixes like this to help North Dakota reach its full energy potential."
The BLM field office in Miles City is part of the Federal Permit Streamlining Pilot Project, which was established in 2005 and designed to improve the coordination of oil and gas permitting on federal lands. This legislation would enable North Dakota to be part of the pilot project under the newly named Montana/Dakotas State Office. Pilot offices are charged with finding innovative ways to coordinate permitting to ensure efficient development with good environmental stewardship.