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STATEMENT: Interior Department Doubles Down on Bad Neighbor Policy, Guts Oil & Gas Planning Reforms

February 1, 2018

DENVER—The Interior Department announced yesterday via an Internal Memorandum that it has eliminated Master Leasing Plans (MLPs), saying that it will not “initiate any new MLPs or complete ongoing MLPs.” The Interior Department also announced it would put extreme limits on public participation in oil and gas leasing.

The Center for Western Priorities issued the following statement from Deputy Director Greg Zimmerman:

“Count this foolish decision as another victory for oil companies at the expense of public participation. MLPs might not have much in the way of pizzazz, but they are incredibly important tools to help land managers and local communities plan where and how oil and gas development happens, while avoiding conflicts between outdoor recreation, wildlife, and water supplies. We’re now returning to the dark days where our government gives oil companies carte blanche to drill next to national parks, around wildlife refuges, and next to neighborhoods.”

More information on Master Leasing Plans

Master Leasing Plans are policy reforms implemented during the Obama administration to help the Bureau of Land Management be more inclusive of the public, and avoid conflicts between energy development and other public lands uses at the front-end of planning. This so-called “smart from the start approach” to planning came about after President George W. Bush’s administration sold 77 controversial leases around scenic areas in southern Utah, including leases within eyeshot of Arches National Park.

The decision by the Trump administration is likely to frustrate communities across the West who have called on the Bureau of Land Management to complete MLPs in their backyard. For example, the Park County Commission in Colorado has implored the agency to complete the South Park MLP. Park County Commissioner Mark Dowaliby has said, “A master leasing plan is a great mechanism for protecting the resources of Park County. The fact that we’re looking at the cumulative effects of development is a new way of looking at the leasing of minerals.”

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