Interior Department hits the gas on oil permitting during shutdown

Jan 16, 2019

Bureau of Land Management brings back workers to process oil and gas leases, drilling permits

January 16, 2019

DENVER—The Interior Department has resumed issuing oil and gas leases in Western states, going so far as to recall Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Offshore Energy Management employees in an accelerating effort to process industry applications and keep future lease sales on track. In addition to approving oil and gas leases and drilling permits during the shutdown, the agency has accepted more than 125 applications for new drilling permits and nearly 100 nominations for public lands parcels to be offered for oil and gas leases. In response, the Center for Western Priorities issued the following statement from Policy Director Jesse Prentice-Dunn:

“Acting Interior Secretary David Bernhardt seems determined not to let a government shutdown get in the way of helping oil and gas companies drill across our our public lands. Processing drilling permits is surely not a critical government function, but to the former oil and gas lobbyist, it’s the Interior Department’s top mission. Instead of following the law, Bernhardt seems to be looking for any loophole to make this shutdown painless for the oil and gas industry.

“Unfortunately, this shutdown has made crystal clear that the Interior Department prioritizes drilling above all else, even protecting our national parks.”

Ignoring federal law:

  • Former Interior Department official Kate Kelly recently identified six different laws the Interior Department may be violating during the shutdown, including the Organic Act, the Redwood Act, the National Environmental Policy Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act, and the Antideficiency Act.
  • The National Parks Conservation Association and Democracy Forward have requested Interior’s Inspector General investigate whether Bernhardt’s shutdown orders have violated the law.

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