House subcommittee hears draft legislative overhaul of oil and gas permitting on federal lands

Published on October 17, 2017 by Chris Galford

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The House’s Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources held a discussion this week regarding legislation known as the ONSHORE Act, which would allow states with their own regulatory programs greater power in permitting on federal lands.

The bill is meant to give them more capabilities for oil and gas development. Under current law, proponents allege, federal dollars are being lost to application inefficiency. Drawing up timeframes, they pointed to 2016, in which the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) averaged 257 days to process applications for permits to drill, while state agencies took a mere 30 days.

“Inefficiencies and redundant requirements imposed by the federal government have discouraged oil and gas production on federal land,” Subcommittee Chairman Paul Gosar (R-AZ) said. “Not only do they already perform many of the regulatory functions performed by the BLM, but they do so more efficiently and with less cost.”

Energy production has been on the rise in recent years, but not so much on federal lands. State and private lands have largely benefitted, in spite of the fact that federal lands offer lower royalty rates, and the bill’s supporters think the inefficiency is to blame. The Independent Petroleum Association of America even said that delays deter companies, costing federal revenue. To further speed the process along, the ONSHORE Act would, therefore, offer states the option of administering the collection of their shares of federal revenue and eliminate BLM administration and fees.

“[State regulatory regimes] are more comprehensive because they are local, they are the people, neighbors, and friends, who do live there, that care about the land, that care about the water and want to be able to see responsible energy development,” Rep. Scott Tipton (R-CO) said.