The requirement to conduct environmental assessments (EA) before oil and natural gas lease sales are redundant and need to be eliminated, and the Trump administration should order a review, western Colorado producers urged in a letter earlier this month to the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM).
The Western Slope chapter of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association (WSCOGA) wrote the two BLM offices in Grand Junction and Silt as part of comments regarding a planned December oil and gas lease sale in the state.
The exploration and production companies (E&P) are concerned about pre-leasing requirements under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) on a macro basis, even though similar environmental reviews are required of specific leases and drilling plans for each lease.
WSCOGA Executive Director David Ludlam in his letter for the group said requiring EAs before lease sales may be held is "a pedestal of a broken federal minerals leasing program.” The process adopted by the Obama administration is "the type of bureaucratic, redundant ruminations that drive private investment away from federal lands."
Last November BLM's Colorado office issued an EA to prepare for leasing up to 100,000 acres in five counties in the northwestern corner of the state. The sale held earlier this month netted $1.24 million.
In the pre-leasing process, BLM provides a 30-day comment period on the EA, which outlines various mitigation measures required to allow the lease sale to go forward.
"We believe that the entire pre-lease NEPA mandate must be examined by the Department of Interior via a policy review," Ludlam’s letter said. The pre-lease environmental requirement, he said, is in conflict with executive orders signed by President Trump and Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke that are aimed at reducing regulatory burdens on federal natural gas resources.
"Pre-lease NEPA processes are redundant and an anachronism from a time when stopping leasing was the political objective," Ludlam said. "The process is entirely inconsistent with the executive and secretarial orders because pre-lease NEPA creates unnecessary and duplicative impediments to oil/gas development.