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BLM Postpones Move to All-Electronic System For Drilling Permit Applications

The Interior Department's Bureau of Land Management (BLM) said Thursday it will postpone for two months a rule to make online the default method for filing permits for oil and natural gas drilling.

Last December, BLM unveiled Onshore Order No. 1, a rule designed to make electronic, or "e-filing," the default method for submitting Applications for Permit to Drill (APD) and Notices of Staking. The rule was scheduled to take effect on Thursday.

But the agency said it will postpone enacting the rule in order to comply with a memorandum issued last month by the Trump administration, which stipulated that any regulations that have been published in the Federal Register, but have not yet taken effect, should temporarily postpone their effective date for an additional 60 days.

"The 60-day delay will enable the administration to review the rule," BLM said.

BLM started implementing the new system in phases, beginning in October 2015. The agency said the new system will help it reduce APD processing times by up to 50%, while also increasing efficiency and transparency during the permit review and approval process. According to BLM, the average time it takes to process a permit is currently 220 days, but it expects 90% of permit decisions will be made within 115 days -- on permits where BLM is the sole surface management agency -- after the new e-filing system is fully functional.

BLM completed an upgrade to its e-filing system last summer. The system is part of BLM's upgraded Automated Fluid Minerals Support System, also known as AFMSS II.

The agency said that since it began developing the online permitting system, nearly 500 operators representing 70 companies provided the agency with valuable feedback and took part in training. According to BLM, regulators have reviewed and approved more than 500 permits to date, while an additional 1,500 permits are currently being processed.

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